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
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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.


Platini released from custody after police questioning

Updated 55 min 36 sec ago
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Platini released from custody after police questioning

  • French authorities haven’t announced any charges against Platini
  • The authorities also questioned a sport adviser from the previous French president’s administration

PARIS: Former UEFA president Michel Platini was released from custody in the early hours of Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
His communication team said that Platini’s detention ended at 12:30 a.m. local time.
Platini had denied any wrongdoing and French authorities did not announce any charges against the former France and Juventus player.
“It was long, but given the number of questions it could not be different,” Platini said after his release. “They asked me questions about the 2016 Euro, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, the Paris Saint-Germain, FIFA.”
Also questioned Tuesday were Sophie Dion, a sports adviser in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration, and Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy.
Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games.
Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14 to 8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup
As head of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent’s top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar.
French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships.

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READ MORE: TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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