Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary made history by becoming the oldest player to appear at the World Cup after starting against Saudi Arabia in his team’s final Group A game in Volgograd on Monday.
He beat previous record holder Faryd Mondragon of Colombia, a goalkeeper who was 43 when he took part at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Hadary remained on the bench in Egypt’s opening two World Cup losses to Uruguay and hosts Russia but was finally given the chance to play against Saudi Arabia, setting a record he long sought.
The Saudi Arabia-based goalie is widely considered the best keeper in Egypt’s history.
He made his debut in a friendly against South Korea in 1996 and went on to make more than 155 appearances.
Famously described by former Ivorian marksman Didier Drogba as his “best opponent”, Hadary won four African Cup of Nations titles.
While he remained on the bench in Egypt’s triumphant 1998 Nations Cup campaign, he was instrumental in guiding the Pharaohs to three titles on the trot in 2006, 2008 and 2010, pulling off some memorable saves.
His best stops included diving to his right to block a penalty from Drogba in the 2006 Nations Cup final and producing a superb reflex save to smother a goal-bound header from the same striker in the semi-finals of the 2008 edition.
“I’m very happy to play at the World Cup, and that is a message to all footballers and others around the world, that you should believe in your dreams and fight to make them come true,” Hadary told BBC Sport in April.
“My age is 45 years old, but for me, this is just a number on paper.”
Hadary played a key role in steering Egypt to a place in the Nations Cup final in early 2017 after a stroke of luck saw him come off the bench in the opening game against Mali, replacing the injured Ahmed El-Shennawi.
He has since not looked back, reclaiming his regular place and producing a series of convincing performances that culminated in a 2-1 victory over Congo in a decisive World Cup qualifying clash last October in Alexandria, where he pulled off a great one-handed save to deny the visitors from scoring.