Episode 1 of Matchday 1 of the African-five-a side podcast continues to explore the stories of five African heads of state and their influence on football. This week, we’re introducing our goalkeeper: the tall, suave, chain-smoking Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Why did we choose such a prominent figure in the non-aligned movement as our goalkeeper? Well, Nasser was known for his height, charisma, and exceptional communication skills—although his interest in football remains uncertain.
Nasser came from a humble background, with a postal worker father, and spent much of his childhood in rural areas. He entered the military academy in 1937, where he met his future ally Abdelhakim Amer and successor, Anwar Sadat. Nasser’s experiences as a young officer during the British-imposed regime changes in World War II and his service in the Egyptian armed forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war had a profound impact on him.
After returning home, Nasser joined the Free Officers movement, which successfully executed a coup d’etat in 1952, transforming Egypt into a republic. Subsequently, Nasser started leveraging football for political purposes.
During his presidency, Nasser was named honorary president of Al Ahly SC and utilized the Cairo derby to raise funds for war efforts. At Nasser’s directive, Egypt boycotted the 1956 Summer Olympics, 1965 Africa Cup of Nations, and also interrupted all footballing activities at the outbreak of the 1967 Six-Day War. While he may not have been the most football-obsessed leader, Nasser skillfully utilized politics to enhance sports and vice versa. His significant contributions to the establishment of the Confederation of African Football make him a natural choice for our African heads of state five-a-side team.
Also, on the African five-a-side podcast feed, don’t miss our weekly round up of African football happenings, including results, observations, a team of the week and a guest of note. Catch up on the last episode now, and look out for the next one Monday.