CAIRO (Reuters) – The thought of playing soccer as a professional had remained a distant dream for Ezzeldin Bahader for decades – until, at the age of 75, he registered with the Egyptian Football Association as its oldest player yet.
Bahader, father of four and grandfather of six, started playing football in the streets of Cairo at the age of six.
As an adult, he was consumed by his work as civil engineering consultant and later land cultivation expert, to say nothing of many years of smoking. Though he carried on playing as an amateur, he abandoned his dream of becoming a professional striker.
For 15 years, he lived in Kuwait, and he now lives in Rehab city, a gated community in the New Cairo suburb.
But nearly seven decades after kicking his first football, Bahader revived his dream and began applying to join clubs. Finally he was accepted into October 6, a club that plays in Egypt’s third division.
He is now training with the club, as well as at home with a personal trainer, to regain his fitness.
In order to be recognized as the world’s oldest professional player, Bahader needs to play two 90-minute matches, a task he is training for, and hopes to accomplish in March.
A representative of Guinness World Records will attend the second match to assess his claim, Bahader said.
Although Bahader’s age seemed a challenge at first, his personal trainer Mahmoud Refaat said his motivation had proved stronger.
The Guinness World Record for the oldest professional footballer is currently held by the Israeli Isaak Hayik, who played in goal last April for Israel’s Ironi Or Yehuda, aged 73.
(The story refiles to change transliteration of Bahader’s given name to Ezzeldin, with no final ‘e’)
Reporting by Mohamed Zaki and Nadeen Ebrahim; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Kevin Liffey