Abdel Kader Adel Hay

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Turkey
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The journey of an ex-football player

Abdel Kader Abdel-Hay's interest in football began in his early childhood. His skills compared to others in his age attracted the attention of the school's physical education teacher, who worked for "Al-Ittihad Al-Halabi" [Aleppo Union] club. He advised him to register for the club in order to develop his talent. Abdel Kader joined Al Ittihad in 1975 and progressed through its ranks until he became part of the men's team in 1980. Al-Ittihad Club relied mainly on the income from match attendance due to the huge size of its fan base in Aleppo. It also got some support from Aleppine merchants and business people.

Abdel Kader says, “In the 1980s, interest and financial support for footballer was limited but just about acceptable. We got modest financial reward and bonuses from the club but there were no professional contracts of the value seen these days. This why players couldn't be fully professional athletes but came to training only after finishing their regular jobs.”

Abdel Kader moved between several jobs and professions until he was able to own his own workshop. Only then, did he devote himself more to sport. During his career at Al-Ittihad, Abdel Kader achieved important sporting triumphs, such as winning the 1982 and 1985 Republic Cup. He was also chosen in 1986 to join the Syrian national football team and participate in the World Cup qualifiers in Mexico. He says about this, “A committee consisting of five trainers from various Syrian clubs was formed to select the team players. Although the selection of players for the main and national teams was well-known to be based on favoritism, that year was an exception in this respect, and proper criteria were used for selection. The proof of this was the result achieved by the national team. It came close to participating in the World Cup, only losing out due to the playoff against Iraq.

Abdel Kader talks about some painful absurdities he experienced during the 1986 World Cup qualifiers. “Our first match was against Kuwait. Before the start of the game in Damascus, we met with one of the government officials who promised to send 3000 Syrian pounds to each player if we won. And as a matter of fact, the game ended 1-0 in our favor. Celebrations were held all over Damascus that day. My brother came from Aleppo with a bus full of fans who wanted to watch the game. When I went to the garage next to the stadium after the match, I saw my colleague, Marwan Madarati, looking for a way through the congestion to go to Aleppo. I invited him to accompany us in the bus that my brother had secured. At the time, everyone felt it was strange that the player who had scored the winning goal was left without a way to get back to his city.”

He continues by saying, “Even the financial reward that we were promised was not given in full. After several days, we received envelopes with only 1500 liras in each one, which was half the value of the agreed bonus." In 1991, Abdel Kader received an offer to play with Al-Safa Club, and he suffered a lot until he earned a concession from the Lebanese Sports Federation. This happened only after mediations and much effort. "I played for two years with Al-Safa and Racing in Lebanon clubs; it was the only time of my career that I benefited financially. I was paid $ 500 a month with housing insurance and personal expenses and, as such, I saved up the amount of money needed to buy a house within two years.

After his second year in Lebanon, Abdel Kader retired only to return three years later as a coach. He worked in the summer football schools for Al-Ittihad club and trained youth, cub and junior teams. He also took part in training classes for coaches, including the Asian training course of the "C" class.

He says, “The cubs team I was training did well in the league for many years, and some of those players are currently in the al-Ittihad men's team and have reached excellent positions”. He continues, “I also trained the junior team for one year in cooperation with coach Anas Sabuni, and the team won the Syrian championship in the 2008- 2009 season.”