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

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.

AS IT HAPPENS: Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes hold up India after tourists take early wickets at Trent Bridge

Updated 21 August 2018

AS IT HAPPENS: Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes hold up India after tourists take early wickets at Trent Bridge

  • Another horror show for England's batsmen as tourists make early inroads in Nottingham.
  • Hosts chasing unlikely 521 for victory already four down at lunch.

AFTERNOON SESSION: England 173-4 & 161, India 329 & 352-7 dec: At last, some good news if you are an England fan, your team has won a session. 

Having seen four wickets fall quickly during the morning’s play the host knew they had to at least show some backbone and take the fight to India. 

They did this with some style, Jos Buttler (67 not out) and Ben Stokes (42 not out) playing with an ease and simplicity that seemed beyond their teammates this morning. Having lost all 10 wickets in the afternoon session on Sunday England lost none in the same period just two days later.

Prior to today Stokes and Buttler have had 11 partnerships in Test cricket and averaged just 15.9. This is their first hundred partnership and came in 195 balls.

Jos Buttler looked in fine touch out in the middle and frustrated the India attack. 

For India it was very much a case of from feast to famine. 

Virat Kohli and Co. will not be worrying though, they still have four sessions to get the six wickets they need for victory.

England went into tea on 173 for four and doubtless hoping for more of the same once back in the middle.


MORNING SESSION: England 84-4 & 161, India 329 & 352-7 dec: Chasing 521 England always knew victory was highly unlikely, this session, this day in fact was all about being positive. Positivity in defense, positivity in decision making, basically the exact opposite of what transpired over the first two hours at Trent Bridge. Having lost all 10 wickets in a single session on Sunday it was perhaps understandable that there were a few moments of indecision out in the middle. But whether that should have resulted in four wickets falling is another matter.
Keaton Jennings was the first to go. The left-hander played and missed several times on Monday evening and early on today India finally had their man — someone who with every innings looks more and more like a walking wicket — when he edged behind of the bowling of Ishant Sharma for 13. That left the hosts on 27 for one.
As sure as night follows day, the next wicket fell soon after. Alastair Cook is currently in one of his ever more-regular lulls in terms of run scoring. The former England skipper fell the same way as Jennings, caught behind off Ishant (two for 24) for 17. He has only one score of over 50 this year and the knives may well be out for him once this Test is over.
At the crease England had Joe Root and Ollie Pope — the present and the future of the side’s Test team runs. The pair fought well and hard, but never looked comfortable with the India attack, brilliantly led by Ishant, probing their techniques ball after ball.

Ollie Pope trudges off after a horror shot gifted India their fourth wicket of the morning. 

The order of the day would have been to hold out until lunch, but Jasprit Bumrah (one for 26) got Root (13) to prod at one outside his off-stump to be caught by KL Rahul in the slips.
62 for three soon became 62 for four as first ball of the next over Pope (16) tried to lay into a wide swinging delivery from Mohammed Shami (one for 28) only to edge to Virat Kohli at second slip.
It was just what England wanted to avoid and the dream session for the tourists.
It could have been worse, though, with Jos Buttler dropped on one. But there is little doubt that that will only extend England’s misery in the middle, and not effect the inevitable India victory.