AFCON recently concluded with great spirit, sincerity, and success. The people of Africa embraced and enjoyed it like a great celebration of football. One of the most inspiring, resounding, and heartwarming stories that came out of this edition of AFCON was that of the Egyptian Goalkeeper Mohamed Qotb Abou Gabal Ali, also known as Gabaski. The 33-year old shot-stopper from Egypt caught the eyes and hearts of millions of people across the globe for all the right reasons. His story and his heroic show in the tournament impressed one and all.
Egyptian goalkeeper Gabaski made his debut for the National team against Sierra Leone on September 3, 2011. However, he had to wait till September 30, 2021, to play once again for his country. Gabaski wasn’t the first-choice keeper even for this AFCON. He got his chance only in the Round of 16 matches against Ivory Coast. And, boy did he make it count. Egypt brought him in as the substitute in that match in the 88th minute and he helped his team qualify through to the next stage by saving Eric Bailly’s penalty in the penalty shootouts.
Despite making an entry in the later stages of the tournament like some action hero in a movie, Gabaski made his presence felt with his heroic performances for his country. He was immediately a crucial cog in Egypt’s wheel then onwards. After that eye-catching cameo against Ivory Coast, he made three great stops against Morocco, helping his team win the quarterfinals. Then in the semifinals, he neutralized Cameroon on three occasions in the penalty shootout. Egypt went on to win the match by 3-1 on penalties and secure the spot in the AFCON final against Senegal.
In the finals against Senegal, he was like a man possessed. He made 8 saves in the match, 6 of which were from inside the box. The Egyptian goalkeeper also denied the Senegalese Captain Sadio Mane from converting a penalty and taking the lead. One can say that Gabaski single-handedly kept Egypt in the game in the finals and kept the hopes alive until the end for his country. He also saved another penalty in the shootout. Although it wasn’t enough in the end for Egypt to win, he can’t be faulted even a bit. He gave his everything and more.
In 3 matches and 32 minutes he played in the tournament, Gabaski made as many as 6 penalty saves. Wow, simply incredible. He made 15 saves and conceded only one goal in the knockouts, keeping a clean sheet twice in 3 starts. He could have easily been adjudged as the Man of the Tournament; such was his impact and importance. Senegal’s Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy also admitted that Gabaski was the best goalkeeper of the tournament for the string of his brilliant goalkeeping performances. He pulled off all this while playing through the injury, another feather in his gallant cap.
Gabaski was playing in the Egyptian Premier League and doing hard yards all these years. He wasn’t sure where his next chance would come to represent his nation. He represented Egypt for the second time directly in the quarterfinals of this AFCON after an impressive walk-on in the previous match. It took him more than 10 years for his second chance. But, he grabbed this opportunity with both hands this time, or one can say, saved his goal like his life depended on it. Thus, he emerged as a true hero for Egypt and an inspiration for people worldwide. So, when life gives you the second chance, grab it like Gabaski.