Egypt's goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary Image Credit: AFP

By Ramadan Al Sherbini

Cairo: The Islamic authorities in an Egyptian province have suspended a mosque preacher for praising the iconic soccer goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary in a sermon, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The head of the Waqf department (religious affairs) in Suez, some 130 kilometres from Cairo, ordered the preacher’s suspension for lavishly praising Al Hadary in a Friday sermon that precedes the weekly prayer, Al Youm Al Saba added.

The preacher’s talk infringed a unified sermon topic wrote in advance by the Awqaf ministry, a provincial official said.

“The theme of the sermon this week was about offering help to the desperate as a religious duty, but Shaikh Mohammad Ezzat deviated from the text to speak about Al Hadary,” Ayman Mahran, the spokesman for the Waqf department in Suez, added.

The official said that Ezzat’s preaching licence has been revoked as a punitive measure.

Egyptian authorities have tightened control on mosques in the mostly Muslim country since mid-2013 when the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi following enormous protests against his rule. The control is aimed at denying Islamists a major platform to influence worshippers.

In his sermon, Ezzat called Al Hadary, aged 44, a “symbol” of hard work against the odds and urged young people to follow his example.

Over the past few days, Al Hadary has soared to the status of a national hero after his spectacular saves in Egypt’s clashes in the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN), being held in Gabon, have secured the Pharaohs a ticket to the final.

Egypt, a holder of record seven ACN titles, will face Cameroon on Sunday for the trophy.

After winning a third consecutive title in 2010, Egypt failed to qualify for the last three editions of ACN.

Egyptian soccer has felt the brunt of political upheaval that hit the country following the 2011 uprising.

Should Egypt claim the trophy on Sunday night, it will be Al Hadary’s fifth ANC title. He is the oldest player in the history of Africa’s prestigious soccer tournament.