El Hadary: I will surprise
He's been a winner against Real Madrid and Roma and brought Samuel Eto'o to tears, behind every 55-match unbeaten run, there is a pretty decent pair of hands. FIFA.com chatted to Ahly's goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.
Four years ago, El Hadary was part of the side that won the CAF Champions League in 2001 but the 32-year-old says there is no comparison between the two teams.
"In 2001, it was very difficult because most of the players were young and we were not able to show the best of ourselves," he remembers. "Jose had just arrived and only a few months later he found himself leading the team against the toughest clubs in Africa. I have to admit we were lucky to win that trophy but this year was different - we deserved to win the title.
"We have a mature squad including 10 players from the national teams of Egypt and Angola along with a coach who knows all there is to about his players."
On Sunday at Tokyo's National stadium in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005, Hadary will come up against a side exceptional on the counter-attack with their star, the former Internazionale striker and Sierra Leone's captain Mohamed Kallon.
"I have faced Raul, Figo, Zidane and Batistuta when AS Roma and Real Madrid played against us in Cairo and we won on both occasions. I conceded only one goal in the two matches," he says bursting with pride. "A few months ago I denied Samuel Eto'o the chance to score when we faced Cameroon in Yaounde in the World Cup qualifiers resulting in their elimination.
"Believe me, it is not I who should be worried in this confrontation. In any case, I never think about who is shooting the ball but rather where it is coming from."
Should Ahly prosper in the quarter-finals on Sunday they will come up against Sao Paulo of Brazil and their free-kick expert between the sticks, Rogerio Ceni.
"I'd love to play against him and, for sure, I'll do my best to deny him the chance to continue scoring," he says before breaking into a smile. "But he should watch out for my surprises too (Al Hadary scored from a free kick against South African club Kaizer Chiefs in the CAF Super Cup in 2002).
As well as striking a dead ball, El Hadary is not shy to throw away a compliment.
"There are a lot of top keepers in this competition," he adds. "For example Ittihad's goalkeeper, Mabrouk Zaid is excellent - he's one of the best in Asia."
Fine words but the African custodian will be determined to get the upper hand when the two meet on Sunday.