Ryan McGowan sets World Cup goal as ex-Hearts defender prepares for huge year in Kuwait


Ryan McGowan is aiming for the World Cup with Australia.

After winning the Emir Cup four days before Christmas, McGowan and his Kuwait Sporting Club teammates will face off this Sunday for the Country Super Cup against Al Arabi. Whether he’s jumping uncontrollably at Hampden Park or celebrating with fans at the Jaber al-Ahmad Stadium in Kuwait, the Australian loves to win a cup. Especially this year.

Another, rather different type of cup occupies its long-term goal in 2022. The World Cup in Qatar is approaching and McGowan is desperate to participate in it. Qualified for the last four editions of the greatest show on Earth, Australia are chasing five in a row.

They need to successfully negotiate qualifiers against Vietnam, Oman, Japan and Saudi Arabia by March to progress.

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McGowan gave a “5-1” hand signal which was captured on television during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This only strengthened his legendary status at Tynecastle Park. However, he was not selected for Russia four years later. He will be 33 when he kicks off in Qatar and knows it is, realistically, his last chance.

He may have a slight advantage over some compatriots given that he is already playing in an Arab country. The more trophies he collects in Kuwait, the more his chances of the World Cup increase.

“I came back to the national team with Sydney FC and I want to be involved in the games at the end of January. I hope we have a World Cup in ten months, so I want to stay in shape, play well and continue to play. winning things here, ”he said in an exclusive interview with Evening News.

“You want the trophies to show your kids medals, but I want to stay on the national team to compete in the World Cup. I talked to [national coach] Graham Arnold when this move to Kuwait happened. We were in an international camp at the time.

“He said it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be in this part of the world leading up to a World Cup [in another Arab country]. If he felt it would hurt my chances, I would have looked for something else.

“It’s a relatively good league in the Arab world and we have a chance to play in the Asian Champions League this year. It’s huge in Asia with a lot of money and pressure at stake. I hope to be again. selected for the national team and then he tries to make it to this World Cup.

Anyone who suspects McGowan is plying his trade in a meaningless environment should think again. The Kuwait Sporting Club is the biggest team in the country, owned by millionaires demanding success.

The player knows the Arab environment well after a brief stint at Al-Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in 2017. “The league is really tight, only five points between the top five teams,” he said.

“We’re one of the biggest teams so there is extra pressure to win trophies. There are three or four cup competitions that they want to win, plus the league. There is an importance in every game.

“As a foreign player you have a little extra pressure. You have been brought in to help them win. It’s pretty cut-throat. If you don’t perform, they don’t hesitate to push you forward.

“It is common knowledge that foreign boys make more money than local boys. So they expect you to perform at a higher level. If they don’t see that you are helping the team or that you are worth it, then they push you forward and bring in someone else.

“Since I arrived, our coach has been sacked, we have lost three foreign players and brought back three more. One of those dispatched was Champions League winner Jon Obi Mikel, formerly of Chelsea.

“It’s definitely a quiet push to make sure your performance is good. With our fingers crossed, we can continue this winning streak, win the majority of the cups and win the league.

Emir Cup, Super Cup, Championship then World Cup? It could be a good year for McGowan. “There were over 30,000 spectators in the Emir Cup final and we don’t normally have any here,” he explained.

“Because all the stadiums are so close, a lot of fans just go to the bigger game. If we have a big game, we might get 8,000-10,000, but a normal league game might only be 3,000. or 4000.

“We were playing against one of our main rivals [Al Qadsia] and they have a huge number of fans, which made it an even bigger win. This puts us in the Super Cup against last year’s league winners. [Al Arabi]. “

It was an even more memorable experience on McGowan’s long journey as a footballer. “I used to think, ‘What is experience? Then all of a sudden you’re 29 or 30 and you’ve played 300 or 400 games.

“You start to understand the game and you see things happen before you did when you were younger. My role in defense here is to keep everyone energized.

When not bringing his colleagues together, he keeps in touch with the affairs of the former Hearts club as a resident guest on the Scarves around the funnel Podcast. It helps to pass the free time without family like son Harry, daughter Millie and wife Stephanie. They are all in Scotland.

“It’s one of the sacrifices,” McGowan said. “Football is not a long career so I want to make the most of it now. In a few years, I will be able to settle down and have a good time with them.

“I always feel like I have a few good years in me. I’m aiming for this World Cup, it’s a pretty big carrot. I want to stay in the Australian team.

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