Omani Players Can't Wait For World Games
Irish people attending this year’s GAA World Games in Dublin will get a first ever glimpse of players from the Gulf nation of Oman playing Gaelic Football. The Oman GAA Club was founded in 2012 and reaches out to the local community for the majority of their members. In the build up to the games, this week we interview two native Omani players, Rashid Al Sawafi and Salim (Carlos) Al Habsi about their new sport, club and coming to Ireland this August.
How long have you being playing with the Omani Team? For two years now.
What sports have you played in the past? Soccer.
Had you ever heard of Gaelic Football or the GAA before you joined the club? No.
What was your first impression on seeing the game played? This game is very hard, and physical, it looks awesome!
How did your first training session go? It was really good and exciting. Everyone was really friendly and helped me to feel comfortable learning a new sport.
What is the most difficult skill for you? To score 45’s and trying to tackle other players without causing a free because in soccer you don’t use your hands. It was difficult to remember to try to take the ball from the other players with your hands.
What do you like most about Gaelic Football? I like that it is fast and physical, but there is also a lot of skill involved. It is a team sport and everyone supports each other. The men and women who play must be very fit and skilful.
What has been your proudest moment as a player? Playing and scoring points and goals against Irish people, it makes you feel proud that you can play the same as people who have been playing all their lives.
What does the Oman GAA Club mean to you? Family, a big family. We all support each other, and sometimes we have arguments, but we always sort it out. I can show my skills, and help the new guys who come to play the game now.
Would you like to see more Omanis take up Gaelic Football? Of course! It’s a fantastic sport, and opens your eyes to new experiences and cultures, especially when we travel to tournaments in the other GCC countries [Gulf Cooperation Council].
What are your team's preparations for the Etihad GAA World Games? We are training very hard right now. A lot of Omanis used to play soccer so we are teaching them the skills needed to play Gaelic, and training hard two nights a week late at night during Ramadan. We hope we are ready for the World Games.
Have you ever been to Ireland? No, but I can’t wait to go!
How does it feel to be taking part in the games? I am so excited. We have taken part in regional tournaments and in the World Games last year [with Middle East/North African team], but it is amazing to be traveling to the home of the GAA to take part in such a huge tournament.
What are you looking forward to most at the tournament? To win the World Games!
How long have you being playing with the Omani Team? I’ve been with the team almost four years.
What sports have you played in the past? I played soccer.
Had you ever heard about Gaelic Football and the GAA before you joined the club? No, never.
What was your first impression on seeing the game played? It was quite interesting and new, and I liked the game because there was a combination of football, basketball and volleyball.
How did your first training session go? It was a little bit confusing, learning how to co-ordinate with your hands and feet, and how many steps with the ball. But of course, everything gets better with time.
What is the most difficult skill for you? Focusing on scoring points and 45’s. We are so used to trying to score goals in soccer, we had to change our thinking and think about scoring points. Also, picking the ball up with your foot, that’s difficult.
What do you like most about Gaelic Football? It’s a challenging game, we learn a lot about how to overcome hurdles and different challenges. Also we are playing with all different nationalities, so we learn more about people and their culture.
What has been your proudest moment as a player? Participating in the World Games last year representing the Middle East.
What does the Oman GAA Club mean to you? It means a lot. It’s not just about the sport we play; it’s about family, friends and brothers. We are together as one unit.
Would you like to see more Omanis take up Gaelic Football? Yes. Actually I am expecting to see more Omani players after the coverage of the World Games here in Oman. You can even see the difference after four years as we now have a national team. There is more interest.
How are preparations for the Etihad GAA World Games Going? We are working on representing our country as a good team. We want to make our country proud, and we are improving our skills in every training session.
Have you ever been to Ireland? No, this will be my first time.
How does it feel to be taking part in the Games? It will be a great experience to play in a tournament like the World Games.
What are you looking forward to the most at the tournament? Winning the World Games trophy.