CAIRO: Essam Al-Hadari issued a public come-and-get-me-plea to Ahly last month, a shocking claim that would have landed him in serious troubles with Ismaili fans under normal circumstances.
With no love lost between Ahly and Ismaili, Al-Hadari’s announcement was enough to ensure that his days with the Dervishes, whom he joined last summer, were numbered.
He apologized afterwards but he did not seem to have allayed their anger until making the decisive contribution to Ismaili’s victory over Ittihad on Saturday which gave them a place in the Egyptian Cup semis.
The normal and extra time ended in a 1-1 draw as Al-Hadari stole the show in the penalty shootout.
He saved Ittihad’s third spot-kick and converted Ismaili’s fifth to help them set up a meeting with title holders Harras Hodoud in the semi final.
"I wanted to achieve something valuable for the sake of Ismaili fans," Al-Hadari, who is renowned for his penalty-saving prowess, told his personal website on Sunday.
"I have a strong bond with those fans. I feel that I’m similar to those enthusiastic supporters who cheer their team from the stands and create a wonderful atmosphere.
"They love to watch entertaining football and they deserve to have their wishes granted."
Al-Hadari has been involved in several disputes with Ismaili’s board since joining after his contract with Swiss side Sion expired.
He repeatedly complained about the club’s failure to fulfill their financial obligations towards him and expressed his desire to move abroad at the end of the season.
But he says his sole focus now is helping Ismaili win their first piece of silverware since 2002.
"I hope the fans will flood the stadium against Hodoud. We want to reach the final, it’s a dream," he added.