President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised Egypt’s national football team for qualifying for the FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup, saying that they honoured the country and were generous to their fans.
“I respect and appreciate all of you and your efforts….Within an hour you managed to please the hearts of 100 million Egyptians, and you must know that every good deed pleases the people of Egypt who deserve to rejoice,” Sisi said during his meeting with the team on Monday.
The president expressed appreciation to striker Mohamed Salah and all the players, saying: “Salah was under heavy pressure in the last four minutes of the game during the penalty kick in front of 100 million Egyptian. I express appreciation and respect to all of you in the person of Mohamed Salah, I also thank the great coach (Hector) Cuper. You pleased us and we hope that you enjoy us God willing in the World Cup.”
The president had a brief talk with former national team midfielder, and current member of Egyptian Football Association (EFA) Magdi Abdelghani — the only ever Egyptian to score a goal in the World Cup. He also took a commemorative photo with the players and the coaching team.
Sisi joked with Abdelghani, saying “Now it is over Magdi,” the former player responded saying. “It is not President, no one scored yet in the World Cup, and I would be the happiest Egyptian when we score another goal.”
Abdelghani is infamous for speaking proudly about his goal in the Netherlands-Egypt match, which ended in a draw 1-1 during the World Cup in Italy in 1990. It was the one and only goal that Egypt has ever scored during a World Cup.
“I was very happy with the president’s talk with me about my goal at the World Cup,” said Abdelghani. “When talking to the players, it was clear that the president follows the team’s matches in the qualifiers,” he said.
“I hope that Egypt will score goals in the World Cup and overcome the preliminary stage, and that this will not affect my popularity and my goal. My goal in the World Cup 1990 is an idea and the idea does not die. No matter how much we score, you won’t forget my goal,” Abdelghani.
Mohamed Salah thanked the president for his words of praise and vowed to do his best at the World Cup. He said: “We will please the people during the World Cup.”
Coach Hector Cuper said he had not seen such celebrations as in Egypt in the past two days except for in his home country, Argentina. “The Egyptian people are ‘football mad,'” he said.
Meanwhile, Sports Minister Khalid Abdul Aziz promised Cuper to provide everything the team needed to compete in the World Cup.