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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
1934: The flying Egyptian
Egyptian goalkeeper at the 1934 World Cup, Mustafa Kamel Mansour.
Mansour (left) turned down a professional career in Scotland

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Mustafa Kamel Mansour is the oldest surviving African to have played at the World Cup finals.

Now 89, he resides in the plush neighbourhood of Nasr City in Cairo.

But the Egyptian goalkeeper at the 1934 World Cup recalls his early football memories with amazing precision.

"I was forced to play football at school," the octogenarian begins.

Mansour's talent received great reviews

"There were two teams starting a game in the schoolyard and they were short of a goalkeeper.

"Our teacher called me to play in goal and I believe I did well, as he made me the school goalkeeper."

Mansour began his club career with Al-Ahly, Africa's club of the century, and got the chance to play for the national team at the World Cup.

Ocean voyage

"When we went to the 1934 World Cup, it was only the second one that had been played.

"We went to Italy on a ship called the Helwan. It was a trip that took four days but we enjoyed the experience," he added.

Unlike now, the 1934 tournament used a straight knock-out format.

Mansour says Egypt lost to Hungary due to biased officiating

Egypt played Hungary in the Southern Italian city of Naples.

It was their first and only game of the tournament, losing 2-4.

Mansour insists they gave their opponents a tough contest.

"We were the better side, we deserved to win.

Referee bias

The quality of officiating at the tournament brings back a lot of bad memories.

Mansour says the Italian referee Rinaldo Barlassina denied them victory against the Eastern Europeans.

Egyptian goalkeeper at the 1934 World Cup, Mustafa Kamel Mansour.
Mansour in action against Scottish club Celtic

"When the game was 2-2, my colleague Fawzi took the ball from the centre and dribbled past all the Hungarian players to score a third goal.

"But the referee cancelled the goal as an offside!"

68 years have not blunted Mansour's memory of Hungary's fourth goal.

He insists the referee did Egypt a great injustice by allowing it.

"The Hungarians fourth goal came from a serious foul against me.

"I caught the ball from a cross but their striker hit me with his knees in my chest.

"His elbow broke my nose and he even pushed me behind the goal-line.

"Instead of penalising the Hungarians for a foul the Italian referee whistled for a goal amid the howling of 15,000 angry fans.

"All the Italian newspapers criticized their referee the next day and admitted he gave the Hungarians their ticket to the next round.

After 1934, it took 56 years for Egypt to make a return to the World Cup.

Mansour was disappointed with their performance at Italia '90, where they were eliminated in the first round.

Highland moves

Egypt's coach at the World Cup was Scotsman James McRea.

After the tournament, Mansour moved to his manager's homeland to begin a diploma in physical education at Jordan Hill Training College.

Between 1937-39, Mansour played for the country's oldest football club, Queen's Park.

Egypt's national team
Mansour is displeased with Egypt's current performance

The Egyptian says he was offered a princely sum to turn professional but turned it down.

"I was offered 5,000 to turn professional, which was a record at the time.

"But I did not want to play for money," Mansour said.

Bob Crampsey is the author of "The game for the game's sake," an official book on the history of Queens Park.

As an eight year old, he watched Mansour play in 1939.

"Mansour was a good goalkeeper and had many impressive games for the club," he says.

Passion

Retirement did not quench the Egyptian's enthusiasm for the game.

Mansour has followed every World Cup since 1934 and picks Brazil's 1958 squad as the best side he's ever seen.

"The Brazilian team was a phenomenon.

"Pele was not the pivot of the squad. Garrincha and Didi were the best players in that great team," he said.

Inheritors

Mansour is impressed with the progress that African teams like Cameroon and Nigeria have made at the World Cup.

Mustafa Kamel Mansour is now 89
Mustafa Kamel Mansour at home in Cairo

He is convinced that it is only a matter of time before an African world champion emerges.

"We have improved so much, so I would not be surprised the moment an African team wins the trophy," he said.

That would be a fitting tribute to one of African football's trailblazers.


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