Wednesday 16 September 2016 is a date forever etched in the memory of Ayman Ashraf. On that fateful day, the Al Ahly defender lost his mother and sister in a tragic car accident on their way to visit him in Alexandria.
For Ashraf, the experience was a living nightmare. Two years after the accident, the 29-year-old defender posted on his Twitter page, saying: “Two years ago, I lost the two most beloved people in my life. I try to forget so that I can have a normal life, but every day something reminds me of them. I remember all the details. I no longer feel any pain, as nothing is more painful than losing them.”
Ashraf’s words point to the deep sadness he felt at the time. The year before, he sustained a cruciate ligament injury just as he was about to make his full international debut under then Egypt coach Shawky Gharib, forcing into a long period on the sidelines. Over time, however, he returned to football and learned to cope with his loss, resume a sense of normality and turn the page on this most tragic of chapters.
New spell with Al Ahly
Indicative of this new beginning was his decision to re-sign for Al Ahly, where, little by little, he began to rediscover his form and secure a first XI starting berth – this despite competition from the likes of Ali Maaloul and Sabri Rahil. He eventually became indispensable in the Red Devils’ back line and last year won an historic treble, including the CAF Champions League final against Zamalek.
Ashraf perfectly exemplifies the old saying that ‘out of adversity comes opportunity’, and opportunities do not come much bigger than the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 ™, where the defender is currently competing with his club.
His impressive performance against Al Duhail SC earned him the Alibaba Cloud Award for Man of the Match and helped his team reach the semi-finals. Despite incessant pressure from their Qatari opponents in the second half, Ashraf and his team-mates at the back stood firm to keep the Al Ahly goal intact.
Dream encounter with Bayern
Like all the Al Ahly players, Ashraf will fulfil a dream when he runs out against Bayern Munich, the UEFA Champions League winners and one the best clubs in the world. The defender is preparing for the game of a lifetime, in which he will be tested against a host of top forwards, including Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller.
Asked about the game, Ashraf said: “We assure our fans we’ll do all we can against Bayern. We’ll do our utmost to represent Al Ahly is the best way possible.
“We’ll study them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and prepare well before the game on Monday. We’ll also avoid the mistakes we made against Al Duhail. Our goal is to make our fans happy and put on a performance befitting of our great club.”