CAIRO: Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan, who is nursing a serious knee injury, said he hopes to play until he is 40.
The Ahly midfielder ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during Egypt’s 1-1 draw at home to Sierra Leone in their opening Group G game of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers last month.
He faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, with some people doubting that he will be able to regain his top form when he recovers from the injury.
"I hope that I can play until the age of 40," Hassan, who turned 35 in May, said in a television interview.
"There are some players in the world who managed to maintain their fine form until they reached 40.
"Look at Lothar Matthaus with Germany, Roger Milla with Cameroon and Hossam Hassan with Egypt, they set examples to follow."
Hassan, a central midfielder who is consistently praised for his superb ability to keep the ball under control, has been a key member of Egypt’s squad since making his debut in 1995.
He became a fans favorite when his remarkable long-range shot helped the Pharaohs to a 2-0 victory over South Africa in the 1998 Nations Cup final.
He also had a pivotal role to play in Egypt’s golden six-year era that started in 2006 when the team won the Nations Cup on home soil.
Hassan was named the best player in that tournament and was part of another winning squad two years later in Ghana.
When Egypt clinched an unprecedented third successive Nations Cup title in Angola last January, Hassan won the best player award once again after appearing several years younger than his real age.
"I’m still ambitious, I have some targets to fulfill with Ahly and the national team," the former Anderlecht man, who came through the youth ranks of Aswan in Upper Egypt, added.
"I’m also after a personal record, I want to become the world’s most capped player."
Hassan earned his 175th international cap against Sierra Leone to move to within two matches of equaling the record of former Saudi Arabia keeper Mohammed Al-Deayea.
He said he should return to action in February next year, one month before a stuttering Egypt side, which slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat by tiny Niger on Sunday, take on South Africa in the Nations Cup qualifiers.