He’s fast, he’s got moves, he can score and he’s got a great head of hair. And most importantly he has got our attention. You probably know Amr Warda as the young Egyptian football player on the rise. He is the fresh face midfielder who stole the spotlight in the Egyptian National Football team’s foray in this summer’s World Cup in Russia. But there is a hidden story behind the young player and his enigmatic demeanor.
eniGma is the first to get the latest scoop from the popular footballer himself on what he really felt during the highs and lows at the World Cup and learn all about his upbringing, professional career and the secrets that made him the football success he is today. Read all about this exciting player in this exclusive interview…
Amr WardaYou have a unique background – including an American Diploma – compared to other Egyptian players. Tell us a bit about your education.
I was born in Dubai and studied there since I was young at an American school. When I went back to Egypt, I continued with an American education, since it didn’t make sense to change for the last three or four years of school. However, during my last two years of school I was fully dedicated and focused on football. I only went to school to take my exams because my schedule was filled with workouts and training camps. Thank God, I was able to achieve a balance between my education and my sports career and I successfully got my American diploma.
Your father was one of the most popular basketball players in Africa. So how come you picked football rather than basketball? Did you always want to be a football player?
My father was the best basketball player in Africa. As a child, I used to alternate between football and basketball and, thankfully, I was successful in both. I was a playmaker and I played basketball well. However, I decided to pursue a career as a professional football player because I was a lot more passionate about football since my childhood.
Did someone inspire you to get into football?
The iconic football player Zinedine Zidane is the one who inspired me. He is my favourite player by far.
So how did your football career take off?
I started playing in the Alexandria Sporting Club at the age of sixteen. Then I moved to El Ahly Club where I played with Coach Manuel José. At that time, I was playing in the same position that big names like Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Abo Treka and Mohamed Barakat were playing in for about four years. Since I was surrounded by such giants, I wasn’t given the chance to really showcase my skills. Later on, I moved to Al Ittihad Alexandria Club on loan from El Ahly. And then I transferred to Greece where I played for a club called Panetolikos and later for PAOK. After my performances on the Greek teams, I was asked to play in the African Nations Cup as part of the Egyptian National Team and I also participated in the Egyptian National Under-20 Football Team and the Egyptian Olympic Team. Thankfully all this paved the way for my participation in this year’s World Cup. 2018 was also a big year for me as I was voted Best Foreign Player in the Greek League earlier this year.
During your time with El Ahly, what did you learn from being part of such a big team with such big players?
The four years I spent with El Ahly were a great learning experience for me. I learned a lot from being surrounded by the big players and I always had their full support. Being part of El Ahly team gave me the confidence and training I needed later in life. And here we are now, after an absence of twenty eight years, the Egypt team made it to the World Cup.
After your move to Greece, what was it like playing for a foreign team and living abroad?
The very first feeling I got was homesickness, as it was the first time for me to live alone and abroad. However, the Greeks are so much like the Egyptians in many ways, they always made me feel like one of them. God also helped me, as I scored 15 goals and assisted in 10 goals with my first club, which is what guaranteed me a place in the Egyptian National Team with Coach Héctor Cúper. And he gave me the opportunity to play in the African Cup Championship with the team; which led me to an even better deal with my next club called PAOK. With PAOK, I was able to take part in the Champions League where I played against prominent teams like Manchester United. So, naturally, this was a huge milestone for me and I learned a lot from this experience. It changed my life.
Life abroad is very different to life in Egypt, but as long as you’re close to God, you will always stay on the right track and get better. And I’m determined to continue this way.
What’s the difference between playing professionally in Greece and playing with the Egyptian National Team?
Of course, in both cases, I play professionally and I exert my full effort, yet it’s a very different feeling for me to represent my country and to play on behalf of 100 million Egyptians. Its every child’s dream to get an opportunity to play for the National Team and it was a huge honour to represent Egypt in the World Cup.
People are talking about how you were one of the best players representing Egypt in the World Cup and how touched they were to see you cry and by the apologetic note you posted to your fans following the last game. What is your impression of what happened in the World Cup?
Of course, people were very upset. I was upset as well, and I cried after our last World Cup game. I was crying over how upset the Egyptian fans were, because I truly wanted to make them happy. I know that football is one thing that makes Egyptians very happy. I cried from my heart and I meant it and felt it. I am a very sensitive person, in general, and I get very emotional. I have a strong sense of pride and belonging to my country and to my team. I even cried during the recitation of the National Anthem. I really wanted us to win but, unfortunately, we did not. We still have to be proud that we qualified for the World Cup after a 28 year absence. We are taking steps towards improving and, hopefully, we will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and make our country and people very proud and happy.
There is a lot of media buzz about the National Team’s defeat three times in a row in the World Cup. In your opinion, what do you think went wrong that resulted in the National Team’s defeats?
I understand people are frustrated, and they are free to say what they want, but I was very disappointed that some Egyptians were cursing their national team. It’s easy to criticise us, but it’s harder to be in our place. When people lose, in our country they are never supported, but when they win, they get full support and backing. As for the rumors about the Egyptian Football Association, they are totally untrue. There were no problems whatsoever. Coach Héctor Cúper was working well with our team; he may have taken some bad decisions and we as players may have made some mistakes as well, but that’s what happens sometimes on the field.
What did you learn the most from your experience playing in the World Cup?
I’ve been playing with the national team for three years and I joined all the national teams of Egypt. I was playing in the World Cup, representing my country and a hundred million voices. That alone means everything to me and it was a great honour. I gained a lot of experience. I learned to play under pressure, and I hope that we, as the national team, will be able to make our Egyptian fans very proud in the future.
What was the biggest highlight from your overall experience in the World Cup?
The overall ambience of the World Cup, after a 28 year long wait, was just overwhelming and simply incredible. I had goose bumps when I heard the crowd of at least 40 thousand Egyptians singing the national anthem in unison in our first match against Uruguay. I will never forget that.
What do you think are our chances of qualifying for the next World Cup? Do you think we will have to wait for another 28 years to qualify or do you think we took a step forward with our qualification this year?
No, waiting for 28 years again is out of question. We are a new generation. We started on this path and we will keep on improving and, God willing, we will take part in every World Cup. This dream of Egypt in the World Cup is a legitimate one for everyone. With the support of the older generation, the new generation, and the Egyptian people, we will be able to take part in the World Cup again and again.
Who are the closest players to you in the Egyptian national team – the ones you get along with the best – on the field and off the field?
I’m honestly close to all the players, but I guess I’m closest to Ahmed Elmohamady, Essam El Hadary and Ahmed Fathy on a personal level; they are like brothers to me. On a professional level on the field, I play best with Mohamed Salah and Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Since you are so close to the Egyptian goalie Essam El Hadary, what do you think of his historic debut in Russia as the oldest player to ever take part in the world cup? Especially that he performed so well!
We are very close; I’m the only one who can call him by his first name. He treats me like a younger brother and he is such a great person; he’s so kind hearted and he honestly deserves all the best. He has made history and his name will live on forever… So, now he can make some room for the new blood! (he laughs).
Before any match, do you have a certain ritual that you do?
I always recite certain verses from the Quran and pray to God that he will allow me to perform at my best, and that my team will do well, then I leave it to God…
And when you do well in a match, who do you most want to call after the match?
I call my mother and my father of course… They are the reason behind anything good that has happened to me… I am nothing without them.
What was the best or most unforgettable match you played in your life?
The most memorable matches for me were Egypt vs. Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup, even though we didn’t win, we put up a strong fight, and the final game of the last African Cup Championship match against Cameroon.
You seem to pay attention to your personal style, as we can see on your Instagram account. What style or brand do you like to wear most when you’re not working?
I love to wear Gucci and Adidas, but I like to be simple and comfortable in my style.
We heard you have a deal with Gucci, which is very exciting! Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, Gucci support me very much – I have a very good deal with them and they have made many great introductions for me. They also always gift me amazing pieces from their latest collections. We have a great collaboration and I hope it will continue.
You have a unique and really cool hairstyle that gets a lot of attention. Was this always your style or is it part of your footballer image?
My hair has been curly like that since I was four years old! (he laughs) After the Egypt vs. Uruguay match I felt that people wanted my hair to fall out! (laughing)… People were saying, ‘Amr Warda has a special hair routine’ or ‘he puts Samna (ghee) in his hair’, or “Amr Warda runs and his curls stay in place”! What did they expect? that my curls would go down? It was crazy! I’m honestly afraid one day I’ll wake up and find my hair has fallen out. The truth is, I don’t use any products on my hair, this is how it is naturally – I promise it’s not a wig (he laughs).
What are your hobbies outside of football?
I like to play golf… and basketball of course!
What do you like most about living abroad ?
I love that everything abroad is so professional; that really helps me focus on my game and on doing my best.
And what do you miss most about Egypt when you are away ?
I have three or four good friends that I really miss when I’m away from home… and my family of course. Nothing else really matters (he laughs).
After all the drama of the World Cup, do you have a message you want to send to your fans?
I don’t want anyone to be upset or disappointed. This was the first time Egypt entered the World Cup after 28 years. Of course, we wanted to do better, but sadly it didn’t work out as we had hoped. The Egyptian national team had a good couple of years leading into the World Cup, so we really were aiming to build on our previous success. Hopefully God will grant us better luck next time so we can make our country proud, aim higher, and perform better. Now we have the experience of playing in the World Cup, and we can learn from our mistakes. Personally, I still have faith and am working hard and praying for the best.
Finally, what are your goals and hopes for the future?
I would love to transfer to one of the leading clubs in England, Spain or Italy one day…but until then, I’m training hard and playing my best so that, God willing, I reach all my goals.
Art Direction & Styling: Maissa Azab
Photography: Khaled Fadda
Hair & Makeup: Al Sagheer Salon
Beymen: Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, Nile
Corniche, Garden City, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 29726640
Hype: 31 Ahmed Heshmat Street, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +(202) 01150933387
Special thanks to Four Seasons Nile Plaza