If he plays in Egypt’s opening Africa Cup of Nations fixture against Mali in Port-Gentil on Tuesday, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary will smash the record for the oldest player ever at the tournament.
El Hadary turned 44 on Sunday, leaving him poised to beat the previous mark set by his fellow Egyptian Hossam Hassan, who was a mere 39 years, five months and 24 days old when he played at the 2006 Cup of Nations.
El Hadary is a veteran of Egypt’s victories on home soil in 2006, in 2008 and in 2010, before the Pharaohs failed to qualify for any of the last three tournaments.
He was also part of the squad that won the 1998 tournament in Burkina Faso, when current team-mate Ramadan Sobhi of Stoke City was barely a year old.
“For Egypt it means a lot for us to be back after our absence from the past three tournaments. This is very important for us,” said El Hadary, now the captain in his seventh Cup of Nations, on Monday.
“We are here to compete again and we are looking forward to winning the cup. Egyptians are looking forward to an eighth title.
“I have won it four times before but this time I am the captain and I am proud of that.”
El Hadary was brought back into the Egypt team by Argentine coach Hector Cuper in time to help them clinch their qualification for the finals in Gabon and he has already stated his desire to appear at the 2018 World Cup in Russia — when he will be 45.
Described by Patrice Carteron, his former coach at Cairo club side Wadi Degla, as someone with “an absolutely exceptional mentality, lifestyle and diet,” if he does play in Russia he would break the record for the oldest player in that tournament too.
Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon holds that record for now having played at the 2014 World Cup just after turning 43.