Friday night’s match against Toronto FC was Egyptian centerback Amro Tarek’s final game in an Orlando City kit for a while.
Tarek had a one-way ticket to Cairo, Egypt, to join the Egyptian national team ahead of friendlies against Belgium and Kuwait. He’ll get a few days to see his two brothers. Tarek will spend a day of Ramadan with his family and friends and then he’ll start international competition.
For Tarek, this is an opportunity he’s waited for. He’s one of 29 players on Egypt’s provisional World Cup squad. The group will be narrowed to 23 players ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Russia. If Tarek is named to that squad, it’ll be a while before fans get to see him in purple again.
He didn’t return to Orlando after Friday’s match, opting instead to fly straight to Egypt from Toronto.
Tarek said he’s happy he’s getting back to Egypt earlier than he anticipated. At first, he thought he wouldn’t see Egypt again until the end of the MLS season.
Still, he said he’s going to miss the Sunshine State.
“I really like it [in Orlando],” Tarek said before Friday’s loss at Toronto.
“I like the supporters. I like the fans and the stadium and social media. I like my coaching staff and my teammates. Everything seems, for me, to be every good.
Tarek, who has been capped once for Egypt’s national team, said before Friday’s match it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to his Orlando City teammates.
“Of course, I’m so happy to join the national team, but deep inside of me, I’m also a little bit sad because I’m going to miss some games,” Tarek said. “I want to be [with] my team. I think the coaching staff and the fans, they are happy for me to represent Orlando City in international events. Even if I only get just the friendly games and come back, it’s going to be a step forward for me.
“As I said before, I’m a little bit sad I’m leaving them, but I’m happy that I’m representing them at a high level.”
Tarek is one of two Orlando City players named to provisional World Cup rosters. The other one is Peruvian midfielder Yoshi Yotún. Tarek, who turned 26 on Thursday, has been an anchor for Orlando City’s back line. He’s started in nine matches and has played through a broken nose.
“Super happy for him,” said Orlando City coach Jason Kreis. “When we were recruiting him to come here, it was very clearly on his mind to get somewhere outside of Egypt playing and to be playing on a regular basis because he thought that would be the next step that would get him an opportunity with Egypt. It turns out, it has been.
“Really happy for him, but a little bit sad for us because now it looks like we’ll be missing two players for the World Cup.”
Tarek is on a one-year loan from Egyptian Premier League side Wadi Degla. The loan includes an option to buy, though Tarek and club officials say that hasn’t been discussed yet.
“I would like to stay,” Tarek said. “Not only for this season, I’d like to stay for more years. I’ve been changing teams for, like, every season, which is not good for any soccer player. If I’m happy here and the club is happy and they want me to stay, I would like to stay.”