Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Better with age

Essam Al-Hadari is one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game, reports Marawan Zayed

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Al-Ahram Weekly

 

Egyptian legend Essam Al-Hadari is the goalkeeper whom African legend Didier Drogba once said was the best he ever faced in his life after he made four world class saves off the Ivory Coast striker in the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations in 2010. Al-Hadari was already 38 at that time and was supposedly approaching the end of his career, only to see him leading our Egyptian national team in this year’s World Cup qualifying campaign six years later.

 

The 44-year-old stopper is certainly writing history as he grabbed the headlines for all the right reasons thanks to an extraordinary performance against Congo last week as the national team won 2-1 away from home in the first game of the qualifiers. His all-round performance that included two unbelievable saves ensured the team returned home with the vital three points before facing Ghana at home in its next game which will surely be another busy time for Al-Hadari.

Many people tipped Zamalek’s Ahmed Al-Shinnawi to start the game but coach Hector Cuper opted for the experience of Al-Hadari and the captain couldn’t have done any better to justify the confidence Cuper had in him.

People also forget that Al-Hadari is one of the few Egyptians to win silverware abroad when he won the Swiss Cup with FC Sion in 2009 after playing a starring role yet again. However, Al-Hadari’s biggest achievement is certainly winning the African Cup of Nations four times, three of them in a row, in addition to being named the best player in the 2009 Confederations Cup where he played the best game of his career against Italy as the national team won 1-0 thanks to Mohamed Homos’ header. In that game, Al-Hadari made an incredible 14 saves, denying Luca Toni and Iaquinta with some out of this world saves. Toni said after the game that the Egyptian keeper “was unbeatable”.

Al-Hadari himself admits he simply can’t believe he’s still going strong 20 years after making his international debut let alone his debut at club level 23 years ago with Damietta. “My dream is to lead the national team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia,” Al-Hadari said after his heroic performance against Congo.

If the national team manages to reach the World Cup, Al-Hadari will surely go down as one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game if he’s not one of the best already. His incredible CV includes eight Egyptian league titles, four Egyptian Cup titles, 4 Egyptian Super Cup titles, 4 African Champions League crowns, three CAF super titles, one Arab Club Champions Cup and one Arab Super Cup. These he won with Ahly before he left to FC Sion to try his luck in Europe. The veteran keeper stayed in Switzerland for just one year despite signing for four years but this didn’t stop him from collecting more silverware as he won the cup. He added two trophies to his cabinet when he won the Sudanese league and Sudanese Cup during his two-year stay with Al Marreekh.

Al-Hadari was chosen as the best goalkeeper in three editions of the African Cup of Nations starting in 2006. He has 147 caps with the national team despite hardly playing for two years when he played only two games.

Can he cap off a blistering career with a place in Russia? No Egyptian player will want to participate in the World Cup more than Al-Hadari who’ll be 45 by then.

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