HATEM ELHAMED missed Celtic’s disastrous derby display on Saturday after he was confirmed as positive for COVID-19 during international duty.
The defender had to self-isolate after becoming unwell while away with Israel.
Speaking to the Hapodium Podcast by Oren Josipovich, the player opened up about his life in general and his positive COVID test.
Hatem spoke about the adversity in his life and the harrowing experience where his brother died in his arms.
The Israeli saw his sibling hit by a truck, something that he lives with to this day.
“People who know me deeply know I have a head-strong mentality. I can not give up on anything if I really want it. Even when I was 23-24 and nothing looked bright and all felt stuck, and people said ‘where would you go, you won’t go anywhere’ I said to myself always – ‘you will see’. I would talk to myself, motivate myself.
“I’ve seen a horrible tragedy, at a young age. What gave me the drive is the understanding that if not me, my family will collapse. I’ve seen my mother and father and what football did to them and what my success did to them and I said – I can’t ever let it go. It motivate me also when it was too hard, when coaches put me in weird positions, when I wasn’t please – I’ve always believe in myself and knew I need to carry them all on my back and succeed and try to give them a reason to smile after the tragedy we’ve been in together.
“My brother died in my arms, no matter how you try to spin it, I’ve seen his last seconds alive, I see him between my arms, bleeding. I can’t even describe what a person feels in those moments. But after I saw what it did to my parents I’ve matured in a second. Before the accident I wasn’t a mature man, and right after – I did. I don’t summarise my career so early but so far it’s basically been a tremendous power of will – to succeed for them, to make them smile, to see them want to live, to move on.”
Speaking about his move to Celtic, the player admitted his young family didn’t settle in Glasgow and have since returned to his home country.
As it stands, Hatem doesn’t see his child unless there’s an international break. It would be difficult for anyone to adjust to life alone in Glasgow but all he wants to do his continue to make his family proud.
“All my parents do in life if to watch me play, so they are happy I play for Celtic because now they can watch me play every other day. Now unfortunately I have to deal with another hardship – my family didn’t manage with life in Glasgow and my wife decided she wants to try her own career also – she is so talented, a personal trainer, she has a very successful business in Israel – so I didn’t see her and my son for a few months.
On the virus, and the sequence of events which led to his positive diagnosis, the Celtic defender did feel some of the symptoms when it came to lethargy.
Admitting he almost collapsed.
“Now I’m fine, for several days it’s been ok, feel great, I think I’m after it – the 11th day after the positive covid-19 test. It started at the day of our game against Czech Republic. Three hours before the match I’ve started to feel weird, I checked my temperature, and sense I didn’t have fever i thought it might be busy schedule or maybe from the AC.
“A day before the match I got a negative test so I assumed there is not a chance I’m positive now. That’s the problem with this pandemic, you never really know. So I played and from the start I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t breath, my body was so tired, I felt something was wrong. But I kept playing until the end – a big mistake. But I’m not the one who will leave a match unless i cant walk on my own power.
“After the match I almost collapsed, went into a side room at the stadium, drank a lot, took some pills from our doctor. I took a taxi home to self quarantine and the next day I was tested positive.”
Celtic have a hectic schedule this year and will need to call on their whole squad during the season. Elhamed will likely be back in action sooner rather than later.
The defender had to go on strike in his homeland to get his move to Scotland but he has no regrets.
“I knew that Celtic FC is a crazy big club before I got here and that’s why I fought to come here – you all know what I did to leave my previous club in order to do it. You see the way of dealing things in the club, the club’s attitude for players, the all-around. The feeling when you enter the stadium… You feel so much appreciated as a player, you feel like the most important asset of the club, you get everything you need in order to have the best feeling in the World.
“And of course, the fans. Now we miss them but every game – more than 60,000 people in the stands. There’s the derby, a top-5 match in Europe, from an atmosphere standpoint, and the energy is unbelievable.
“I’ve improved at Celtic, of course. I feel like since 4 years ago in SC Ashdod, the time I became a central defender, I’m improving every game – not every year, every game. Every game I learn something new.”
Elhamed could be a big player for Celtic this season if he can stay fit when he returns. The defender has always looked calm and assured on the ball. As Celtic get ready to take on Milan, Lille and Sparta Prague over the next month, his experience could be invaluable.
We would like to thank @josifoon for translating the interview for CeltsAreHere.com
Full episode in Hebrew here and whenever you get your Podcasts — https://open.spotify.com/episode/0mJ9iTgzUUb7bjEbj2a2FI