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Haidar Al-Shaibani: From Western to Venezuela (Western Gazette)


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From Western to Venezuela

Former Mustang suits up for Canada

Daniel Da Silva

June 14, 2010

When Canadian national soccer team head coach Stephen Hart announced his lineup for Canada’s recent exhibition series in South America, he made sure to include the usual suspects. Names such as Dwayne De Rosario, Julian De Guzman, Pat Onstad and, of course, Haidar Al-Shaibani.

Soccer fans at Western may be wondering why that last name sounds so familiar.

“Haidar is the best goalkeeper we’ve had at Western since I’ve been here. He had a tremendous career here at Western,” Mustangs head coach Rock Basacco said.

Al-Shaibani is the star goalie who took the Mustangs to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship twice. He’s the same goalie who was a four-time Ontario University Athletics all-star, first-team all-Canadian and a national championship all-star.

But how on Earth did he go from Western to the Canadian national team?

After graduating from Western in 2008, the Algerian-born goalkeeper signed a contract with Nîmes Olympiques, a second-division French club, catapulting him into the ranks of professional soccer.

“It took me a year to sign with them. I was on trial with [London City and the North York Astros] to get ready and then last summer, I got a call from the coach [Jean Michel Cavalli]. They were interested in seeing me,” Al-Shaibani said. “I went over there and had a match and they liked me. I trained with them for a while and then signed a contract.”

“He always wanted to play professionally. His work ethic is second to none. He worked on every aspect of his game to make it happen,” Basacco added.

Since earning the contract with Nîmes Al-Shaibani has started six times, allowing a mere five goals and shutting out two teams.

Despite his impressive run of form with his club team, Al-Shaibsani never thought he would be suiting up for Canada so quickly.

“It wasn’t a surprise [that I got called up]. But I didn’t think it would happen at this point in my career. To get it this early is a good thing, though,” he said.

Despite having the opportunity to play for other countries, such as the country of his birth, Al-Shaibani jumped at the chance to play for Canada. Of course, having the chance to learn alongside long-time Canadian goalkeepers Pat Onstad and Josh Wagenaar may have made the decision easier to make.

“It was a really good opportunity. It showed me a different level. It’s very different when you play for your country instead of your club. It’s a different atmosphere and different type of training. I got the chance and I learned a lot,” he said.

Though he would not play in the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Argentina, Al-Shaibani was substituted into the second game against Venezuela. Down a goal when he entered the game, Al-Shaibani used his time to shut out the South Americans, enabling Canada to come back and tie the game.

“It was a great result for Canada and for Haidar. He earned his first cap and played well,” Basacco said.

He will now return to France to get ready for the upcoming season at Nîmes. With the taste of the success he has had thus far, Al-Shaibani intends to work even harder to make sure the accolades keep coming.

“It was a hard road [to get to where I am]. When it pays off, you get that weight lifted off your chest and it’s satisfying,” he said. “But it isn’t enough. You can’t stop going. You always have to move on and look for the next challenge. I’m hoping to help my club move on to the French first division.”

Al-Shaibani will have to keep on top of his game if he hopes to get the nod from coach Hart, especially with the 2011 Gold Cup – North America’s regional championsip — on the horizon.

“It’s open and the opportunity is there. I don’t know for sure, but if I continue to perform well and train hard, it’s always possible. I have to be ready and wait for the call,” he said.


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