Egypt faces off tonight against Mali in their African Nations Cup opener. If El-Hadary plays, he will surpass Hossam Hassan's record as the oldest footballer to ever play in the tournament.
Egyptian football goalkeeping hero Essam El Hadary is set to become the oldest player to compete at the African Nations Cup finals when Egypt takes on Mali in their opening game tonight.
If the 44-year-old netminder gets the start in any of the games he will officially become the oldest player to play in the African Nations Cup finals, surpassing fellow compatriot and current record holder Hossam Hassan who played at the age of 39 in 2006.
For over two decades, El Hadary has stood as the reliable last line of the defense for the Pharaohs and played a pivotal role helping Egypt win the African Nations Cup in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010. With the exception of the 1998 victory, El Hadary was named best keeper of the tournament in their other title wins.
Although Egypt’s national team have three excellent goalkeepers, there’s a good chance that El Hadary will seem some playtime as he recently played in World Cup group qualifiers against Congo and Ghana winning both matches.
Two other records are potentially in reach for El Hadary, as he appears in his seventh final, which is one short of the record for most appearances in the finals set by Cameroon’s Rigobert Song. Although El Hadary is focused on helping Egypt claim another Africa Nations Cup title, he also has set his sight beyond the tournament hoping to become the oldest player to ever play at the World Cup. Talking with BBC, El Hadary explained that playing in the FIFA World Cup, “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.”
His goal is ambitious as Egypt has failed to reach the World Cup since 1990. However, if they do qualify for the tournament and El Hadary plays the game, he will become the oldest player to ever play at the FIFA World Cup.
Photo from FIFA.com