Mo Salah: The conundrums of the Egyptian's "King" status
In Merseyside, they know him as the Egyptian king that runs down the wing or the pharaoh that fell from heaven wearing number 11. The past one-year has been a revelation for both Mohamed Salah and the entire world, not just the footballing world. The 26-year-old returned to the English Premier League in Liverpool colors after being an unwanted child at Chelsea. As they say, the rest is history. Salah scooped countless individual accolades on the continent and abroad, broke all sorts of records including the most goals scored in a single EPL season, with 32 to his name and 44 in all competitions. He may have finished trophyless but the Egyptian was instrumental in leading the Reds to their first UEFA Champions League final in as many years and Egypt’s sorry 2018 world cup campaign could be attributed to the lack of him, both psychologically and tactically. The climax of all his achievements on the pitch, is his nomination for the FIFA World’s Best Footballer of the Year together with the five-time winner in Cristiano Ronaldo and Croatia’s captain fantastic, Luka Modric. The first African player to be nominated for the award since the days of the currently serving Liberia’s President, George Weah. But there’s more, perhaps not so pleasing events surrounding the pacey forward’s personal life and career.
The other story kinda starts with a photo
Off the pitch, Salah is currently embroidered in a less than ideal relationship with the Egyptian federation that started with a fight over image rights. Salah was not pleased with his photo decorated on the Egyptian team’s Russia plane by the official sponsor of the team, WE as he was in a sponsorship deal with the rival, Vodafone. He eventually won that spat but the wheels had already started coming off. Next up, was the Russia incident which drove the Liverpool forward to consider early retirement from international football. The story is narrated as one in which Mohamed was used as political capital by Russia’s controversial Chenchya leader who took pictures with the forward and claimed he had given the Egyptian international an honorary citizenship in the Russian province. There are numerous reports that also cited other incidents that involved a delegation of celebrities disrupting the Egyptian team in training which are rumored to have strained Salah’s relationship with the Egyptian FA.
The recent not-so-cool exchanges
As the 2019 AFCON qualifiers resume on the weekend of 8-9 September, it has been reported that Salah had demands for improved security and discipline in the Pharaohs camp building up to the qualifiers. No one in the country is in better position to make such demands other than Salaha, because of his populist power. Local political commentators even mention that Salah is more powerful than the government:
"Salah's power is rooted outside government control, which makes him stronger than the government. Salah will continue to win his battles unless the government decides to take him on and accuse him of cooperating with the opposition"- Hassan Nafaa, Political Analyst
Based on the political analyst’s assertion, no one can touch Salah. In light of this perceived “truth,” reports claim that the federation tried to severe Salah’s relationship with the masses by going for his Colombian agent and mentioning that Salah’s stardom changed him, making him less loyal to the country. The 26-year-old has since rubbished the comments in a video post saying:
"You tried to portray me as someone who hates his country. Rest assured, people won't believe you. This is 2018, you cannot keep shouting Colombian! Colombian! Colombian! about my agent ... you keep saying his attitude is not good. But, look, we have a problem, so forget his attitude and just solve the problem." - Mohamed Salah, Liverpool and Egypt.
Egypt’s history with stars
Some local commentators have begun fearing for Salah’s personal life and career given his take-ons with not only defenders on the pitch but now with officials. Discussions revolve around Salah’s possibility of eventually getting the same fate as his exiled mentor and ex-footballer, Mohamed Abu-treka who allegedly conspired with an Islamist group against the government and placed on a terrorists list or the comedian Bassem Youssef, dubbed Arab World’s Jon Stewart, who hosted the most watched weekly show in the history of Arabic television. Youssef was allegedly labelled a foreign agent and now lives in exile.
Mohamed Salah is yet to complete a compulsory military service which could be more than two years in the country and some of his family members still reside in the country. What do you think the future holds for perhaps the world’s most loved Egyptian?