Hani Al-Dhabit is an Omani football legend

 Hani Al-Dhabit is an Omani football legend

He is Oman’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 43 goals in 102 appearances

The attacking midfielder also enjoyed a successful beach soccer career

Hani Al-Dhabit is an Omani football legend

Oman’s football fans have had a lot to smile about recently: after unexpectedly securing a spot in the third round of the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, their team subsequently qualified for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™, which will kick off on 30 November. But the Omanis are also involved in another high-profile competition, namely the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, in which they are participating for the third time.

Coach, Talib Al Thanawi poses during the Oman team presentation prior to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019 on November 19, 2019 in Asuncion, Paraguay. (Photo by Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™

Al Thanawi: Oman can be dark horses in Russia

“I’m obviously going to follow the Beach Soccer World Cup, and I’ll be keeping an even closer eye on how our national team does,” former Oman international Hani Al-Dhabit told FIFA.com. “It’ll probably make me feel a little nostalgic, because I took part in the tournament twice. I’ve got particularly fond memories of our first-ever win at the World Cup, against Costa Rica in 2015.”

Al-Dhabit’s name will inevitably be familiar to beach soccer fans, but it will also likely ring a few bells with aficionados of Asian football. In fact, the Omani belongs in an elite club of footballers who have forged successful careers on both grass and sand.

Starting out in the streets

A former national-team captain and the most prolific scorer in his country’s history (43 goals in 102 international appearances), the dynamic attacking midfielder turned to beach soccer after hanging up his boots in 2008. He continued to exhibit an eye for goal on the sand, and played a key role in Oman qualifying for two Beach Soccer World Cups and claiming a historic AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup title in 2015. 

“Any footballer can develop into a good beach soccer player,” said Al-Dhabit. “You just need to learn the rules and adapt your game accordingly. Of course, in Oman, we have some fantastic beaches to practise on – that helps!”

However, it was not on the seashore of Salalah, his birthplace, nor on a grass pitch that he took his first steps on the road to becoming a sporting star: “I began playing football in the streets of my local neighbourhood, and I loved it right from the start. Everything just followed on from there – clubs, the national team, fame.” 

RAVENNA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 03: Hani Al Dhabat of Oman shoots on goal during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Group B match between Oman and El Salvador at Stadium del Mare on September 3, 2011 in Ravenna, Italy.  (Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Endless enjoyment

“I have nothing but great memories of my career!” Al-Dhabit continued, reflecting on a remarkable professional journey that included a semi-final appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Ecuador 1995, an achievement that remains the best performance by any Omani side in a FIFA-run tournament. “In a way, I extended my enjoyment by getting involved in beach soccer.”

He added: “There was obviously the adventure we had in Ecuador, but I also took part in qualifying matches for the Asian Cup and World Cup. Those memories are so important and palpable that sometimes I forget that I’m actually retired!”

Now 41, Al-Dhabit also eventually called a halt to his international beach soccer career. He has not turned his back on the discipline altogether, though. “I still play, when time permits,” he said. “I’ve always loved the fun side of it, as well as the technical skills it requires.” 

Boasting significantly more expertise and experience than the average Beach Soccer World Cup fan, the Omani icon should have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the fun and study the skills on display in Russia over the next couple of weeks.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 18: In this photo illustration is a detailed view of the official ball at the Luzhniki beach soccer stadium prior the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2021 on August 18, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo Illustration by Octavio Passos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

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