Egypt’s Essam El Hadary aims to become oldest World Cup player

Egyptian veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary

Essam El Hadary is considered to be one of the best African goalkeepers in history

Egyptian veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary is aiming to become the oldest player at a World Cup by appearing at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

El Hadary will be 45 by then, eclipsing record holder Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played in Brazil in 2014.

“I will fight to reach the World Cup,” said El Hadary, who recently played in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

“I don’t care about my age, I train like I am 20 years old.”

El Hadary won his 144th cap for Egypt in a 2-0 win over Tanzania on 4 June in what was his first international match since 2014.

In doing so he became the second oldest African player to feature with his national team, behind Kersley Appou of Mauritius who played when he was 43 years and 361 days old.

The victory secured The Pharaohs’ place at the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon and El Hadary’s performance has put him in the frame to appear at the tournament for a seventh time.

He has already won the Nations Cup title four times with Egypt – in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010. And he was also named the best keeper in each of those tournaments, except in 1998.

While the Wadi Degla stopper admits his first priority is to make the squad for the 2017 continental finals, his dream is to make his debut on the biggest stage of all.

“It’s time for me to play in World Cup. That is what I say to myself every morning and before every training session,” El Hadary told BBC Sport.

“It is my biggest goal now. I will not lose hope to play at the World Cup, I will not give up and I will keep training hard.”

Egypt’s goalkeeping coach Ahmed Nagy believes El Hadary has a good chance of making his dream a reality.

“Essam was not on our shortlist to be called to the national team but the form he has been in for his club Wadi Degla forced us to call him,” he told BBC Sport.

“When we called him last March for the match against Nigeria he was number four for us, now he is number one. He played against Tanzania and was amazing.

“He is one of the most important goalkeepers in Egypt and Africa and I think he can play until he is 50.”

El Hadary also has the support of his Zamalek goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy, despite the pair being in competition for the national team’s number one jersey.

“He is is an icon for us goalkeepers in Egypt,” El Shenawy told BBC Sport. “I have learned many things from him and when he is with us in the national team camps it helps us to do our best.”

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