Egypt's El-Hadary Poised for World Cup History

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(file photo).

Barring a miracle, Egypt's captain Essam El-Hadary will make history in Russia by becoming the oldest person to play in the Fifa World Cup this year.

When Pharaohs coach Hector Cuper names his final squad early next month, only an earth-shaking incident would prevent the Argentine from naming his captain El-Hadary in the team.

El-Hadary, 45, plays for, and is the captain of little-known Al-Taawoun football club in Saudi Arabia, but don't be fooled by this.

The veteran goalkeeper, nick-named 'High Dam' owing to his tremendous talent and amazing goalkeeping skills, has played 156 times for the Pharaohs, winning the Africa Cup of Nations four times (in 1998, 2006, 2008 and in 2010).

He has never played at the World Cup, Egypt's last appearance at the tournament being in 1990 before he even started his career.

El-Hadary has exemplified longevity so rare with players of the current generation. His club career spreads across nine different clubs in Africa, Europe and Asia.

He started his youth career at his hometown club Damietta in 1991, and graduated to the senior ranks in 1993. He went on to play for Cairo-based Al Ahly, the most decorated club in Africa boasting a record eight Caf Champions League titles, on two different occasions and also plied his trade at FC Sion (Switzerland), Zamalek (Egypt), Al Merreikh (Sudan), Al-Ittihad Alexandria, Wadi Degla (both in Egypt), and Al-Taawoun (Saudi Arabia).

Egypt has produced remarkable players, among them Hosaam Hassan, Wael Gomaa, Mohamed Aboutreika, Mido, Amr Zaki, Mohamed Zidan, and lately, English Premier League duo of Mohamed Elneny, and the free-scoring Mohamed Salah, but El-Hadary stands out due to his longevity.

"My age is 45 years old, but for me, this is just a number on paper. I train hard every day, I don't know what the word 'impossible' means. I will keep fighting until the World Cup to have the chance to play. My father who passed away told me that his dream is to watch me playing at a World Cup and I want to make my dad proud," El-Hadary told BBC last week.

Last week, Cuper named the 45-year-old in a 29-man preliminary World Cup squad. In Russia, El-Hadary could eclipse the record set by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played at the last World Cup in Brazil.

Before Mandrogan, there was Cameroon's Roger Milla who went to 1994 World Cup in USA aged 42 years, one month and eight days.

El-Hadary has already made history in Africa, becoming the oldest player in Africa Cup of Nations history after he came off the bench in Egypt's first game of last year's tournament held in Gabon.

Egypt became the first African country to play in the Fifa World Cup when Pharaohs lined up for the second edition of the quadrennial tournament in 1934.

They also played in the 1990 tournament in Italy, and will make their third appearance at the tournament this year in Russia, where they will play in Group 'A' alongside hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.

Should El-Hadary line up for Egypt in Group 'A' against either Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and Russia at Central Stadium Yekaterinburg, he will be playing for pride, his father's memory, and history.

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