CAIRO, Egypt, Sep 6 – Mohamed Salah has emerged the victor in his bitter dispute with the Egypt Football Association as the Pharaohs make their return after exiting the World Cup winless.
The Liverpool striker had clashed with his country’s FA over image rights violations and personal security.
The stand-off escalated last month when Salah and his lawyer accused the federation of failing to respond to a list of demands involving the player’s “well-being whilst with the national team, and assurances that the image rights violations wouldn’t happen again”.
This provoked an angry rebuttal with the FA insisting it would not “favour one player over another”.
Salah hit back with a pair of Facebook videos, insisting he was asking for better security for the whole squad at team hotels.
Confirmation that peace had broken out between the two sides came when the FA published photographs this week of Egypt President Hani Abou Rida and Salah side by side.
Rida was attending a training camp in Alexandria ahead of the Pharaohs’ first outing since crashing out of the World Cup after losing all three first-round matches.
They face Niger on Saturday to kick off their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign.
At the World Cup, the player was reportedly left unhappy after he was made to appear with Chechen strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov at Egypt’s training ground in the region in Russia.
An earlier disagreement involved his image being used by the team’s main sponsor, telecoms firm WE, when he already had a contract with rival company Vodafone.
That rift was eventually resolved following intervention from political leaders.
The federation has taken a battering on social media and on the street.
“If we had a referendum us Egyptians would say we don’t want this federation,” said Ahmed Assem, a public relations officer.
“They are all incapable,” Assem, 59, added, before identifying Salah’a agent as “the cause” of the crisis.
As for 22-year-old student Mostafa Mahmoud, he accused the country’s football rulers’ of “wanting to exploit Mohammed Salah as much as possible”.
“As they abuse everything the federation has capitalised on the situation for its own financial gains,” said Mahmoud.
The damaging dispute sheds light on a more general problem in football which doesn’t know how to look after “its jewels”, suggested Youssef Mohamed, the owner of a modest machine repair shop.
“The name of Egypt is on the lips of everyone around the world, Mo Salah is at the heart of a revolution, and we are trying to ruin it,” he said.
Faced with all this criticism the Egyptian FA says it has met all of the demands made by Salah.
“We’ve imposed a ban on public and media access to the (training) camp by strengthening the security presence,” the federation’s media officer Oussama Ismaïl reported.
Aside from the Salah affair, the federation is bedevilled by “a lack of organisation”, argue critics like Amir Abdelhalim, editor of specialist football site Fil Goal.
“The fact that Egypt has a star as big as Mohamed Salah figuring as one of the top three players in Europe is a first for Egyptian football,” he said.
“We have to manage a level of professionalism that we’re not used to: the highest level.”