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Meet Essam El-Hadary – Egypt’s record-setting goalkeeping legend

Meet Essam El-Hadary – Egypt’s record-setting goalkeeping legend


At age 44, Essam El-Hadary continues to make football headlines, not only because he is the oldest player at an African Cup of Nations (AFCON) but because his agility and alertness since he broke onto the scene seem not to wane.

The Pharaohs of Egypt – are the continent’s most decorated national side. They have seven AFCON titles, a number almost double their closest contenders – Cameroon and Ghana who have five and four titles respectively.

They came into the tournament with El-Hadary as the second choice goalie but it was not long before the man who had been the first choice for over a decade was called to duty after the first choice goalie, got injured in their first game. From the subs bench he came in as captain.

Whiles the Egyptian defence is largely credited with being mean and allowing in few goals, El-Hadary’s most recent heroics had nothing to do with a defensive cover. The 44-year-old saved two penalties in their semi-final clash against Burkina Faso and sent Egypt into the finals.

The global sports headlines won’t focus on Egypt’s team qualification neither will they emphasize how unfortunate it was for the dominant Burkinabes to be kicked out with spot kicks.

The news from Libreville was all about how El-Hadary had fired Egypt to greater history making.

Unfortunately, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon stood in the way of the Pharaohs coming from behind to beat their opponents and pick their fifth AFCON crown.

The AFCON loss however takes little away from El-Hadary’s exploits on the African terrain. A few facts about his record-breaking feat since making his debut for Egypt over two decades go.

  • 1. El-Hadary made his international debut in March 1996 and has since made 153 appearances.
  • 2. He made his first AFCON showing in 1998 with Egypt going on to win the trophy.
  • 3. At 44, he is the oldest player to play in an AFCON, won man-of-the-match accolade against Burkina Faso.
  • 4. Till Aristide Bance’s goal in the semis, El-Hadary had gone 10 hours and 53 minutes without conceding a goal in the AFCON
  • 5. He has been part of Egypt’s last four AFCON triumphs, 1998, (Burkina Faso), 2006 (Egypt), 2008 (Ghana), 2010 (Angola).
  • 6. He holds the record as Egypt’s most capped goalie. He set a record with teammate Ahmed Hassan who has also won the same number of AFCON trophies.

He had the kind words from Chelsea FC’s number one goalie, Thibaut Courtois, but it was not to be as he won Egypt’s only trophy at the AFCON bagging the fair play trophy at the closing ceremony.

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