Bauza tells Saudi Arabia players to learn fast ahead of key Portugal clash

Edgardo Bauza has taken the Saudi football to western Europe for a 12-day training camp. (AP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Bauza tells Saudi Arabia players to learn fast ahead of key Portugal clash

VISEU, Portugal: With just 215 days until the start of the FIFA World Cup, Edgardo Bauza will take charge of his first official Saudi Arabia match tonight against European champions Portugal, insisting his players must learn quick in the mountainous city of Viseu.
“Viseu” comes from the Portuguese word “vista”, meaning view, and it is appropriate given the Argentine coach hopes to finish the evening with a better vision of what work he has to do before boarding his flight from Riyadh to Russia next June. Having arrived at the Saudi helm only in September — after the squad had already qualified for next summer’s showpiece — he has overseen three unofficial games, against Jamaica, Ghana and, earlier this week, Latvia. Tonight’s glamor tie will be the first against another qualified side.
“Facing top teams like Portugal is part of our preparation program ahead of the World Cup,” said Bauza, who has taken Saudi to western Europe for a 12-day training camp. “This is the second of three games here and is very important. We are in an important phase because we are only starting to work with the squad. Now the team is getting used to our working methods and I am getting to know them better.
“Portugal has qualified for the World Cup and we know they have good players that will give us a hard game. Against us, they will likely play many that we have not seen playing too much at this level before, but it is very important to show respect to all. For us, it will be a very difficult game and we must learn quickly how to play against a team of this high standard.”
Bauza’s counterpart Fernando Santos is expected to give debuts to a number of young players after naming an inexperienced squad, including the uncapped Marcos Lopes of Monaco and Real Sociedad’s Kévin Rodrigues. But, highlighting Renato Sanchez, Santos stressed his youthful selection does not belittle the level of the opposition, nor the importance of the match.
“Age is not important,” he said. “Renato was 18 years old when he went to the Euros. Others, like Raphael Guerreiro, were very young. It is an open team without ages. What matters is the individual or collective quality, that is what makes them come or not. Of course, these 23 players will not all be in the World Cup squad, but some will be, like others who did not come and can be. There is only one player who is the exception.”
That exception will not feature tonight. Cristiano Ronaldo is absent, not called upon by Santos who prefers to run his eye over other options. Saudi, however, are not anticipating an easier ride.
“Ronaldo is obviously a very important player for any team, but naturally I still expect a difficult match,” Bauza said. “Portugal has a deep squad and are able to fill the gaps of players that will not be present. We want to first play a good game against Portugal and then again against Bulgaria [on Monday]. The objective is to be ready for the World Cup, but we have time to work.”


Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

Updated 26 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

  • Jurgen Klopp praises the positive impact Mohamed Salah has had on attitudes towards Islam and the Arab World
  • Salah has 43 goals in all competitions this season and is a serious Ballon d'Or contender

LONDON: “Mohamed Salah is the best footballer in the world at the moment,” “Salah is up there with Messi and Ronaldo,” “Salah has the world at
his feet...”
In a world ever more prone to hyperbole and after yet another masterclass from the Egyptian ace, it is not surprising that such grandiose statements get bandied about with the regularity of a Salah goal. The 25-year-old was simply sublime during Liverpool’s 5-2 destruction of Roma on Tuesday night.
He has now scored 43 times this season, has a genuine chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, and with every match looks more deserving of the superstar mantle his admirers have given him.
But while we can sit back and marvel at his talent, all those tributes are perhaps missing the point. We can debate whether he is a world-beater on the pitch, but what is not in doubt is that Salah is a game-changer off it — and that is the true mark of just how impressive he has been since moving to Liverpool.
Go to Anfield for any match now and, once the rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has died down, it is likely you will next hear the Liverpool fans’ hymn to Salah. Sung to the tune of “Good Enough” by Britpop band Dodgy, it goes like this: “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be a Muslim, too.” Such is the “Salah effect.”
Britain is a hugely fractured country at the moment. The Brexit vote and debate surrounding it has held up a mirror to an island ill at ease with itself, with regressive attitudes to race, religion and immigration out in the open.
That Salah has been welcomed with open arms and lauded in that climate — albeit in a city with a proud tradition of tolerance — is quite something, not least at a time when Islamaphobic attacks in the UK are on the rise and when, as recently as 2016, a national newspaper ran a headline that claimed “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.”
The context of the Salah worship evident not just in Liverpool, but also around the country has not been lost on his manager, Jurgen Klopp.
“(The hero status of Salah) is fantastic. It’s exactly what we need in these times,” the German told Channel 4 News.
“To see this wonderful young man, full of joy, full of love, full of friendship, full of everything, in a world where we all struggle a little bit to understand all the things happening around on this planet — so it’s just fantastic.
“He is a Muslim and he is doing all the things that Muslims are doing before a game, washing procedures and stuff like that … like Sadio (Mane) by the way, like Emre Can, by the way; they all do that. Nobody says what we have to be…
“Now we wait, that’s completely normal in a team and that’s how in an ideal world the world would work; we all try to understand each other and deal with all the little strange things for the one or the other.”
Sport sometimes aims for profundity when there is none. Witness any stomach-churning statement of national brilliance during an Olympics, or any underdog story, and you will find people deriving a lot more from some match than the simple “team scores more to win game” narrative that is most set in reality.
But the “Salah effect” has prompted real change off the pitch. From fans singing “I’ll be a Muslim, too” to appreciating the Liverpool talisman simply as a great player regardless of background, the “Egyptian King” is a genuine role model for his country, the region and Islam at a time when the world needs it most.
“We are all kind of ambassadors and sometimes we fit to that role and sometimes not, and at the moment Mo is the perfect ambassador for Egypt, for the whole Arabic world. I love that,” Klopp said.
So it is immaterial whether Salah wins the Champions League for Liverpool, beats Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or or leads Egypt deep in the World Cup — he has already done more than most footballers do.
Should the positive image of both Arabs and Muslims he has created endure, then that will be his true mark of greatness.