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El-Hadary: Nothing extraordinary about qualifying for the 2017 AFCON
Four time African Cup of Nations winner Essam El-Hadary has played down his side’s recent qualification for the 2017 edition in Gabon.
43-year-old Egyptian goalkeeping legend Essam El-Hadary has said Egypt are back where they belong and it is nothing extraordinary that the Pharaohs have qualified for the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Essam said, “I’m happy because it’s something we’ve all worked towards, though it’s only normal we should qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.”
The goalkeeper then expressed his delight at qualifying but mentioned it should be the norm saying, “The whole country is right to celebrate, but to me there’s nothing extraordinary about it.”
The veteran then discussed Egypt’s dominance in the tournament over the last decade. He said, “Egypt has a long history in this competition. We’ve won it seven times, three of them in a row, which is something nobody else has ever done. Us being there is going to add interest to the competition, and I am certain that football fans in Egypt, the Arab world and Africa are delighted to see us back.”
El-Hadary who featured in Egypt’s last qualifying game, a 2-0 win over Tanzania said he was happy to be back captaining the team. He said, “It wasn’t an ordinary game for me. I’ve been with the team for the last few matches but I didn’t play. In the build-up to this game, I felt I had a very good chance of playing, and I was so happy when coach Hector Cuper named me in the XI. I said to myself that the moment I’d been waiting for had finally arrived. I’ve always trained hard, but on getting back into the team I became aware of the responsibility that was on my shoulders. I was ready to do anything to ensure we qualified.”
El-Hadary was glad to keep a clean sheet but said it was down to a team effort saying, “I felt confident and I tried to keep a clean sheet. I think we’ve performed well in every game and we deserve to qualify. All the players were focused on the same objective: to put Egyptian football back where it belongs.”
Then adding, “This successful campaign has all been down to teamwork, to the support of the Egypt fans and the Egyptian FA, the tireless work of the coaching staff and Cuper, and to the players, who’ve been very motivated.”
El-Hadary also said he was more than just a player but also a motivator to the team. He said, “As the captain of the team, my job involves more than just playing. I have to talk to the players and motivate them. During the course of the qualifiers, I’ve seen how determined they’ve been to give their all for Egypt. I want to thank them and tell them that if we keep showing that kind of spirit, then good things will come our way in the future. I’m proud of my long career but playing in the World Cup is something special for any player. There is no limit to my ambition and I have always been determined to achieve that objective.
“In the next few days we’ll find out who we’ll be facing in the qualifiers. Whoever we’re up against, we’ll be going all out to win and to top the group. We know the qualification competition will be long and tough because there are no minnows in Africa any more. We need to keep on fighting and showing the same determination. That’ll help us achieve our objective.”