Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary raring to go if asked to make World Cup history

Essam El-Hadary has been training as hard as the younger members of the squad just in case he is called on to make World Cup history. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
0

Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary raring to go if asked to make World Cup history

  • At 45, El-Hadary will become oldest player to ever play at the finals
  • 'People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20'

MOSCOW: Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary says he feels like he is 20 again.
That’s a dream combination: A 20-year-old with the vast experience gained from a career stretching nearly three decades.
“I have dealt with three generations of players, each one of them was different,” El Hadary said in a recent television interview. “But this generation is just great. People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20.”
El-Hadary is not assured of getting any game time for Egypt in the World Cup in Russia but if he does, he will make history.
Whether he is selected to start ahead of Sherif Ekramy or Mohamed Elshenawy or goes on as a substitute, El-Hadary would become the oldest person to play in a World Cup.
Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played at the last World Cup in Brazil, holds the record.
Egypt opens its campaign against Uruguay on Friday and will meet Russia and Saudi Arabia in other Group A games.
El-Hadary, who enjoys celebrity status in Egypt, has rarely spoken about the age record, preferring instead to focus on the ambitions of the Pharaohs in their first World Cup since 1990. It is a return that has given many of Egypt’s 100 million people a welcome reprieve amid harsh economic conditions.
Being in the World Cup is a particularly special occasion for El-Hadary, who gained fame and respect as the Pharaohs’ goalkeeper when they won three successive African titles between 2006 and 2010. It was a time when the Egypt team was peaking on the continental level, but kept on failing to qualify for the World Cup.
They are here now, and El-Hadary does not hide what it means to him.
“I have a goal that I have dreamt of all my life: That we qualify for the second round,” he said.
This is far from certain since Egypt could be without Liverpool’s star Mohamed Salah, who is recovering from a should injury, at least for the Uruguay game. Salah’s knack for scoring — 44 in all competitions in his debut season with the English club — would be sorely missed by a team that has heavily depended on him.
Still, El Hadary has been doing his part, showing full commitment to earning a starting spot.
During training sessions in Grozny, the team’s base in Russia, El-Hadary appears raring to go, always walking energetically to the pitch ahead of his teammates, and diving at full stretch for saves. In fitness drills, there’s no visible difference between El-Hadary and teammates who are 20 years younger.
But age can take a toll and El-Hadary, notwithstanding his tenacity, is no exception.
He has had an erratic season with his Saudi Arabia club Al-Taawoun and has of late shown glimpses of slower reflexes or bad judgment, most recently during a 3-0 loss in a warmup against Belgium. The Belgians netted twice while El-Hadary was in goal in the first half.
El-Hadary first rose to prominence with Cairo’s Al-Ahly club, but he fell out with management and left in 2008 for Switzerland, where his playing time was cut short by a transfer issue. Al-Ahly fans were upset by his departure, and he has become something of a football nomad, playing for several clubs in Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
0

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.