Mohamed Wahed remembers it clearly. On a training pitch in downtown Cairo, a finger was pointed at him.
In an instant, the 17-year-old’s dreams became reality as he realised he had made the cut for Team Egypt at the 2019 Homeless World Cup.
Relaxing in the players area, Wahed smiles: “I got the first call from the coach and he told me I had made it down to the final training camp, and that only eight players would be selected from that group to travel to the tournament.
“Then after the final sessions, I was on the training field in the city and they pointed at me and told me I had made it to the final team who would travel to Cardiff. Words can’t describe how happy I was. I was emotional and just thanked the coach.
“I feel very honoured and privileged to have this experience.”
The youngest player in the squad, Wahed, who grew up in the Giza province, added: “My dream at home was always to become a footballer. I started playing in the streets when I was 12, where I broke my hand and my arm, but I didn’t stop. I’ve been determined to fight and fight to get to where I am today.”
Egypt has won all of its three stage one matches, scoring 20 goals in the process. Wahed admits the team was relieved to come away with all three points against India.
He added: “We scored first, but then we lost control of the game and our emotions were all over the place. When they tied the game 4–4 in the last minute, we were all quite down. Our coach was trying to cool us down from the sidelines, and we managed to score in the last seconds to win 5–4.
“This tournament, if God wills, will be an accomplishment for me. I only do three things back in Egypt: I work, I study, and I play football. I’m studying to get a higher education, and I work to live, but I’ve played football to live out my dreams.
“It was very important for me when I got to the final team. I now get to say I’ve represented my country in an international tournament and be spoken about positively.”
Words: David Brockett
Images: Daniel Lipinski / Soda-Visual