Tuesday 26 March 2024, 13:30

FIFA Series 2024™ serves as Egypt’s pathway back to the FIFA World Cup

  • Egypt's involvement in hosting the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009 proved pivotal in the emergence of talents like Ahmed Hegazy

  • Egypt is currently hosting the FIFA Series 2024™, with Tunisia, Croatia, and New Zealand also taking part

  • We had a conversation with Ahmed Hegazy, who recalled the 2009 tournament and spoke of the significance of the FIFA Series 2024™

Egypt boasts a rich history dating back to the Pharaonic era, spanning over three millennia until the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. This epoch witnessed significant advancements in civilization, architecture, science, and the arts.

Complementing Egypt's historical legacy is its rich football heritage, with the national team having lifted the African Cup of Nations trophy no less than seven times, including three consecutive triumphs between 2006 and 2010. This football-loving nation eagerly embraces FIFA tournaments too, and currently has the honour of staging the FIFA Series 2024™, featuring Croatia, Tunisia, and New Zealand, alongside the host country.

The FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 remains a cherished memory

After a hiatus of 15 years since the north African nation held the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009, which was lauded as one of the finest editions to date, a FIFA tournament is once again being held in Egypt. Khaled Abdel Aziz, former Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports and director of the 2009 World Youth Championship, spoke to inside.fifa.com about that competition.

“We earned the right to organize the 2009 World Youth Championship after losing out on staging the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. The tournament was a challenge in terms of our ability to organize major sport events. One of the most notable features was the opening of Burj Al Arab Stadium, which at that time was one of the largest in the African continent.”

On the significance of Egypt hosting the FIFA Series 2024, he said: “One of the most important things about hosting events under the FIFA umbrella is ensuring that the facilities match meticulous FIFA requirements. The participation of major teams in these events also contributes to shedding light on the sporting facilities and infrastructure in Egypt.”

Ahmed Hegazi (C) of Egypt celebrates his team's first goal with team mates during the FIFA U-20 World Cup

"I take pride in my participation in several FIFA tournaments"

Among the notable players from the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009™ was defensive stalwart Ahmed Hegazy. “Being called up by the Egyptian youth team in 2009, even though I was younger than my colleagues, made me feel special,” reflected the Saudi Al-Ittihad player. “Taking part in such competitions is a wonderful thing for any player, and was a strong motivation for me to continue my professional journey and reach the highest levels.”

Hegazy’s journey from the youth tournament in 2009 has taken him, among other places, to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup™, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, and the recent FIFA Club World Cup with his Saudi club.

Philippe Coutinho of Brazil is tackled by Ahmed Hegazi of Egypt during the FIFA U-20 World Cup

In an exclusive interview with inside.fifa.com, Hegazy expressed his joy at representing Egypt on the international stage. “I am happy to have participated in major international competitions. I am proud of this journey and of the fans for watching and appreciating the players’ efforts. Our goal is always to make them happy and raise the name of Egypt high, and one of the things that makes me happiest as a player is when I make the fans happy, achieving success for my country, and contributing to the Egyptian national side at events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. This is a great honour for any Egyptian player.”

Importance of the FIFA Series in preparing Egypt to return to the World Cup

Ahmed Hegazy noted the importance of the FIFA Series for Egypt’s return to major football events. “Tournaments organized by FIFA are wonderful and competitive, bringing together teams from different football schools,” he said. “The FIFA Series 2024 in Cairo is an opportunity to meet teams with diverse philosophies and prepare the country for major upcoming tournaments. It is also an opportunity for fans to enjoy watching big stars, which is a boost to the game.

“Hosting FIFA events underscores Egypt's continental and global significance, showcasing its prowess in organizing successful tournaments and its passionate football community,” he went on. “The organization of the FIFA Series is a continuation of Egypt’s successes in hosting major football events, the most prominent of which were the 2009 U-20 World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.”

Egypt returned to the FIFA World Cup at Russia 2018™ after a 28-year hiatus, but the Pharaohs missed the Qatar 2022™ tournament after being eliminated by Senegal on penalties in the third and final round of qualifying. Ahmed Hegazy looked back on that game with regret. “The luck factor stood in the way of Egypt’s qualification for the 2022 World Cup when we lost on penalties to Senegal,” he said. “We made a great effort during that qualifying campaign and the dream was close. Anyway, we are now working to secure a spot at the 2026 World Cup, and we are ready to win the two games in June against Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau to help achieve that goal.”

Hegazy says of the new phase that began with the FIFA Series 2024 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand: “The FIFA Series 2024 is an opportunity to make amends with the fans and regain their trust now that the team is led by Hossam Hassan, one of the legends of Egyptian football who previously participated in the 1990 World Cup and won the African Cup of Nations three times. He is a great player and a great coach, and he always motivates the players in a perfect way.”