Footballers aren’t known for their smarts, but then Mohamed Aboutrika is used to surprising people. The 31-year-old Egyptian striker has a bachelor’s diploma in philosophy hanging on his sitting room wall — and a whole host of winners’ medals no doubt adorn the rest of his house.
Dubbed the ‘Egyptian Zidane’, the Al Ahly star is arguably the best footballer on Earth not plying his trade in Europe or South America. Technically gifted, he also has a remarkable spatial awareness and an admirable temperament under pressure — traits that mark him as the most talented Egyptian footballer of his generation.
Although a foot injury meant he missed out on this year’s African Cup of Nations tournament, he helped his nation top the tournament in 2006, and then scored the winning goal next time around in 2008.
Off the pitch, he has made significant contributions of both time and money to charitable causes, and says he follows the example of both his father and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), who influenced him in one of his important soccer choices — his shirt number.
“When I joined Al Ahly Club there were two shirt numbers vacant, 21 and 22,” he once said. “Before deciding which number to pick I went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. While I was walking between Al Safaa and Al Marwah mountains, I saw the gate number 22 that the Prophet used to pass through, and that’s why I decided to choose that number so that it would be a good omen for me in life.”