CAIRO: A 75-year-old Egyptian footballer has his sights set on becoming the world’s oldest professional player following his signing by a third-division club.
Ezz El-Din Bahader was registered with the Egyptian Football Association by the 6th October Football Club, which now wants him to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest pro player. Bahader is far from unfazed by his newfound fame, even comparing himself to Egypt and Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah.
“He is the top Egyptian professional player and I am the oldest Egyptian player. Age does not matter,” Bahader said.
Under the title “Egyptian Premier League Professional at the age of 75,” the Football Association issued a statement on its official Facebook page.
“Today, the Egyptian Football Association has registered the oldest professional player in the world during the current winter transfer period. He is 75-year-old Ezz El-Din Bahader, who signed for 6th October in the third division,” it said.
Bahader had his first practice with his new club on Friday. Before the warmup, club coach Ahmed Abdel-Ghani had an extended meeting with Bahader, discussing the player’s physical readiness, especially since he hopes to score a goal that would make him the oldest player to score.
“I chose shirt number 23,” Bahader said. “I will play in two games, one against Egy-Telecom which may go up to the second division. That would be the most challenging game for the team, so I will do my best to win.
“The forward position is tough because the player encounters rough play. However, I believe I play well as a forward and I want to make my dream come true, so I have to face the challenges.”
Hossam Bernasos, 6th October vice president, said Bahader was determined to claim the Guinness record.
“We want the honor for Egypt, but he must play in two games according to conditions set by Guinness.”
The current record for the world’s oldest player is held by an Israeli, Isaak Hiyak, who played as a goalkeeper at the age of 73. “Bahader is a top professional with high physical skills. He is a distinguished player,” Bernasos said.
Ahmed Rabie El-Haddad, a 6th October club board member, told Arab News: “We would do anything that is in the best interests of our country. So we began the process of signing Bahader. We wanted to make his dream come true. Decision-makers should help those who deserve to have their dreams come true.”
El-Haddad said that club officials watched a video of Bahader before signing him.
“We are proud that the player who is close to getting into Guinness carries the name of our club,” El-Haddad said. “This is good promotion for Egypt and for our club.”
El-Haddad believes Bahader can continue to play with the club even after he claims the Guinness record.
“Football is a right for everyone. If he thinks he can continue to play, we welcome him. That will be his decision as well as the decision of the club’s coach.”
Ahmed Hussein, the club’s director of sports activities, said he expected Bahader’s first game with the club to take place next month at home.
If Guinness officially names Bahader as the world’s oldest player, he will be honored by Egypt’s Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhy.