CAIRO: For almost two decades, he has been a key player in the national volleyball’s squad. His extraordinary spike skills have frequently helped Egypt seal memorable victories in highly competitive games, and in 2000 he was named team captain following the summer Olympics held in Sydney.
Ever since then, the team has managed to achieve un-precedent results in major world competitions.
Hamdy El Safy, the veteran captain, relishes Egypt’s chances of being among the best eight in the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
“I truly believe it is the next step ahead, throughout the last three years, we have performed outstandingly in major competitions, namely: the golden medal in the Mediterranean Games in 2005 – becoming the first ever Egyptian team to win such an honor – the ninth place in the last World Cup, and the fifth spot in the Inter-Continental Cup in 2006, El Safy told Daily News Egypt.
“We’ve got everything it takes to reach to the last eight, an extraordinarily talented generation of players, a competent coaching team under the command of Captain Ahmed Zakaria, in addition to a supportive federation under the leadership of Amr Elwani, who exerts every effort needed to improve the overall performance of Egyptian volleyball, El Safy added.
El Safy, who made his international debut in 1991, says that prior to 2005, the national team used to take part in major world competitions for the sake of participation. He cited the Olympic Games in Sydney eight years ago, when the team lost all its contests and wound up in last place.
The veteran captain recently guided his team to victory in the African Championship, held earlier this month in South Africa.
“It was definitely a highly competitive tournament, as always we confronted fierce opponents, namely, Tunisia, Algeria, Cameroon and South Africa, El Safy said.
Despite suffering from severe back pain in the final against Algeria, El Safy was determined to continue playing up to the last moment. His decision proved to be crucial on the team’s path to victory, ensuring their qualifying spot in the Beijing Olympics.
El Safy has highlighted the significance of the team’s participation in the Volleyball World League, which is played throughout the year and is compromised of the world’s top 16 sides, and which sees teams competing for lucrative money prizes.
“Competing at such a professional level throughout the last three years has gained us substantial experience at the highest international competitive level. In addition, it has minimized to a large extent the anxiety we used to have upon confronting the world’s top sides. Furthermore, it has opened the door for talented, gifted players such as Abdullah Abdel Salam to move and professionally play volleyball in Italy, where the world’s top league exists, El Safy said.
“In the meantime, and through the build-up to Beijing, we need – as a team – to keep our focus and momentum, for us to reach our target, the quarter-finals. Yet it is worthwhile believing that we could go even beyond this stage, El Safy added.