Featured image via: elhareefsports.
Of all the great goalkeepers that have set a stronghold affront the National Team’s goal, one name will never be forgotten: Essam El-Hadary. Today, after the Great Dam announced his retirement from international football, we look back at the best moments of his professional football career.
Born in 1973, a few months before the glorious October war, El-Hadary started his football career with an impressive stint at Domyat Football Club in Third Division Football. He caught Al-Ahly SC’s eyes, and went there as a young keeper with not much to his name. He joined Al-Ahly SC in 1996, when Ahmed Shobeir reigned over the goalie position. It was a tough act to follow, but El-Hadary was up for the task. El-Hadary worked relentlessly with Al-Ahly’s goalie trainer, Ahmed Nagy, and after a lot of hard work, transformed into one of the best goalkeepers in the history of Al-Ahly SC and the National Team.
Goalkeepers win games by stopping the opposition from scoring, getting a clean sheet, or even just minimising the number of goals conceded. But one day, El-Hadary helped Al-Ahly win the game by actually scoring his famous goal, all the way from the other side of the pitch. He later scored 4 goals through penalties.
Goalkeepers are usually the quieter ones on the pitch. Strikers and attacking midfielders get all the limelight for their goal scoring abilities. But El-Hadary had always managed to make headlines, and not just due to his amazing abilities as a goalie, but also thanks to his charisma on the pitch. Who could forget his iconic dance, with the whole crowd chanting, “Or2os, ya Hadary!”
His African Trophies
Essam El-Hadary has 159 caps for the Egyptian National Team. A massive achievement by a massive football player. He is currently the goalkeeper with the most caps for the Egyptian National Team, and the oldest player to ever participate in the African Cup of Nations. He was an essential part of the Egyptian team’s four African trophy wins in the years 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010, and their runners up in 2017. He won the award for Best Goalkeeper in the African Cup of Nations three consecutive times: 2006, 2008, and 2010. Strikers like Eto’o and Drogba, who were scoring for fun in European football, felt like amateurs in front of the wall that is El-Hadary.
His Kiki Challenge
El-Hadary became one of the very rare goalkeepers around the world to have a big influence on the media. He managed to maintain that, not only through his skills on the pitch, but also through his character on and outside the pitch. Whether on TV programs or Ads, El-Hadary was always present. Nothing embodies his playful character more than his unique take on the Kiki Challenge.
His World Cup Record
After the speculation surrounding him leaving Al-Ahly for the Swiss Club, Sion, El-Hadary was determined to maintain his place in the Egyptian National Team. He retained his position in African competitions with impressive performances, and fought with all he had to reach the World Cup. Failure after failure, and with time taking its toll, it seemed El-Hadary wasn’t destined for World Cup football. He disappeared from the limelight for a while, but it seems his work ethic is stronger than time itself. El-Hadary trained harder than ever, worked more than anyone, and at 44 years of age, he was still as nimble and fast as a young goalie. Hard work pays off, and after his performance at the 2017 African Cup of Nations, as well the World Cup Qualifiers, El-Hadary had cemented his place in Egypt’s World Cup squad. Making his appearance against Saudia Arabia in the final match of the group stage, El-Hadary saved a penalty, and set the record as the oldest player ever to play in the World Cup.
El-Hadary had everything he needed and could have retired as a great goalie, instead, he retired as a legend. El-Hadary proved that one’s fate lies only in one’s hands.