Having played against many of the world’s best football players, Ahmed Hegazy is a force to be reckoned with. He takes his career very seriously and is incapable of giving less than his absolute best in every match. No matter what team he plays on, Hegazy always has the ball in his court and will stop at nothing to protect his goals.
Hegazy has always had a passion for football. Perhaps it was his father who instilled it in him. “My father was always passionate about football and it was his lifelong dream for me to become a professional football player. He kept motivating me to train and improve my performance,” he recalls. Despite that he has more than earned his international acclaim and status as a defender due to his perseverance, he remains humble and never fails to credit his trainers and everyone who has taught him along the way. As he puts it, “Every coach I’ve trained with, since I was six, has helped me in some way to improve my performance. They helped shape the player that I am today. I owe them a lot.”
His modesty helped him stay dedicated when he was chosen to play for Italy’s ACF Fiorentina after a few short years of playing professionally in Egypt. His outstanding performance in the famous Italian football club earned him the nickname “Nesta of the Pyramids” after retired Italian professional footballer Alessandro Nesta. While living abroad could be challenging for some, Hegazy took it all in stride and was able find a way to adjust to his new living situation. “Some aspects of living in Italy were quite unfamiliar to me, and the way they view football is also a little different, but you get used to it and find a compromise that you feel comfortable with. Italy is a beautiful country and the people there are similar to Egyptians in a lot of ways. They are very fashion-oriented, too. While I try to keep an eye out for new fashion trends, to me, being fashionable means adopting the ones that suit you and finding your own personal style,” he states.
At only 26 years old, Hegazy has had quite a career and has already gone up against some of the best footballers in the world. In fact, his first match as part of Egypt’s national team was against Brazil. “I was only nineteen, so going up against Brazil in my first match was quite an event,” he exclaims. When he played against Neymar Jr. and Givanildo “Hulk” Vieira de Sousa at the Olympics, he kept his game face on and focused on his team. “It required a lot of effort, but I enjoyed it. You must be focused and well-trained to be prepared for these kinds of matches,” he explains. To most people, having to go up against some of the toughest players can be daunting, but to Hegazy, it’s all part of being a professional footballer because, as he says, “I love what I do, and training and competing is part of that. I am lucky to be doing something I love and that makes people happy at the same time. That’s why I am completely committed to it.”
After returning to Egypt from Italy, Hegazy continued to improve his performance in football, which has recently earned him the “Best Defender” award in the Al-Ahram poll for the best Egyptian Athletes of 2016, and the “Man of the Match” title in the Egypt v Ghana match in the Africa Cup of Nations 2017. While he dreams of one day playing with the likes of Gerard Piqué, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi; and of training with Carlo Ancelotti, José Mourinho, Diego Simeone and his childhood idol Zinedine Zidane, Hegazy remains firmly focused on the present and gives his best to his team instead of fantasizing about the distant future. “I can’t think too far ahead. Right now, I can only think as far as giving it my all with my current team [Al Ahly SC], so that we can live up to our fans’ and my own expectations. From there, I would be honoured to play with my country’s national team and represent Egypt internationally,” he states.
Hegazy lets his love of the game guide his every move, regardless of the team he is playing with. He is quick to note, “I am only concerned with playing and contributing to the success of my team. Winning is the best feeling ever! Football is a team sport, so the best part of it is when we work together as a team and win. Of course, every football player dreams of achieving the highest rank, but I am taking things one step at a time. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I hope for the best. I do have short-term and long-term goals for my career, and I plan on achieving them through hard work and dedication.”
But Hegazy has another great love in his life: his love for his family. He’s recently been blessed with a baby boy, Sufyan, who has changed his life for the better. According to him, “It’s a lot more responsibility; I try to be the best version of myself so that he can be proud to have me as a father.” Contrary to popular opinion, Hegazy doesn’t view having a family as an impediment to achieving success, despite all the traveling that his career requires. “When I was in Italy, my wife was there with me and she was at ease with the situation. I don’t think that having a family gets in the way of playing with international teams. My family and I are close and they will support me in whatever decision I make,” he proudly states.
Hegazy seems confident that Egyptian football teams are becoming tougher and more competitive. He believes that this will reflect positively on Egypt’s chances of making it to the World Cup. “It looks promising as we have recently [before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations] defeated Congo abroad and Ghana in Egypt, who is a tough competitor in Africa. So, it’s going well so far. We are taking it little by little to hopefully make it to the finals,” he explains. He looks forward to making it to the World Cup and competing against some of the toughest teams in the world.
Giving back is a priority for Hegazy. He understands that fans are a huge component of what he does, which is why he uses social media to reach out to them and to share his accomplishments with them. “I like to connect with the fans through social media because they can’t all meet me in real life. In doing so, I show them some form of gratitude. I work hard for them because I appreciate the dedication they have to football teams. At the end of the day, football’s main aim is entertainment, so I hope we keep our fans entertained and meet their expectations,” he says enthusiastically.
Get the exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Enigma Magazine’s Heartthrob Issue cover shoot with Egyptian football star Ahmed Hegazy!