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African legend Essam El-Hadary sets sights on 2018 FIFA World Cup

Essam El-Hadary

Photo by Samuel Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Essam El-Hadary spoke to FIFA about Egypt’s first AFCON 2017 match, against Mali, his career as a goalkeeper and expectations he has for the future.

The 44 year old goalkeeper made history, on Tuesday, by becoming the oldest player to feature in an Africa Cup of Nations match. He came on for Ahmed El-Shennawy, who will miss the rest of AFCON 2017. FIFA interviewed him to expound further on his achievement.

“We’re all determined to do whatever it takes to honour the national team jersey. When I’m sitting on the bench, I try to help the players out on the pitch. When El-Shennawy got injured, I started to warm up so that I was ready to come on. When he had to go off, I went straight on the pitch and did my job.”

The veteran goalie continued, “It was a tough match. It was our first one and all our players are competing in their first Africa Cup of Nations. I had to show calmness and guide them through the periods when we were under pressure. Everyone could see how hard they worked. We wanted to win, as we do every game, but picking up a point in your opening game is not a bad way to start.”

Essam El-Hadary said his achievement was by the whole team. “Nobody expected me to be here playing this competition, especially as Egypt have been absent since 2010. I love challenges, though, and I’ve worked really hard over the last two years to get into shape. I train hard, every day, not because it’s my job but because I love football.”

He will have to work even harder, while with his club side Wadi Degla, as he has set his sights on the 2018 FIFA World Cup. “I’ve got more objectives beyond playing in my seventh Cup of Nations. I want to play at the 2018 World Cup too. We have the chance to qualify for the biggest competition of them all for the first time since 1990. I want to be a part of that and wear my country’s jersey there.”

I have dedicated part of my time in this bad world to following African football. From CECAFA to WAFU, COSAFA to UNAF & even the forgotten UNIFFAC.

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