'Mohamed Salah's PFA Player of the Year award can inspire all Arab footballers'

Salah smiles after yet another success — the Liverpool star has scored 31 goals in the Premier League so far this season.
Updated 23 April 2018
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'Mohamed Salah's PFA Player of the Year award can inspire all Arab footballers'

  • Mohamed Salah is the second Arab to win the sought-after award.
  • Former Saudi Arabia coach Nelo Vingada claims win will persuade more Arabs to play in Europe.

LONDON: Mohamed Salah’s incredible season is not just about winning individual awards or helping Liverpool to a possible UEFA Champions League win — the Egyptian star is inspiring millions of fans across the Arab world.
On Sunday the Egyptian ace won the PFA Premier League Player of the Year award, after his stunning exploits since joining Liverpool from AS Roma last summer. The 25-year-old leads the scoring charts with 31 goals this season so far, and is on target to beat Andy Cole’s record of 34 strikes in a single Premier League campaign.
And while that is great for both Salah and Liverpool, it is also great for the Middle East.
 “When there is a player like Salah performing, scoring and playing at the level he is playing at then it is amazing for Arabian football,”  Nelo Vingada, former coach of Cairo giants Zamalek and the Egyptian Under-23 team, told Arab News.
Vingada believes that the January departure of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona has given the forward the extra freedom he needed to excel in the Premier League.
“The people of Egypt are proud and very excited about Salah. 
Football is one of the things that unites the country and they are loving that he is playing so well,” added Vingada, who also led Saudi Arabia to the 1996 Asian Cup title.
Pat Janssen, CEO of Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab, has been watching Salah’s success with a lot of enthusiasm and pride from Riyadh.
 “There is no question that Salah is inspirational for all Arabic players, and that includes those from the Asia side,” Janssen told Arab News.
“I can’t recall a higher profile player to come from the region. What he is doing with Liverpool can energize the region simply because Egypt is a massive football nation.”
It is hoped that the sight of Salah scoring goals by the bucketload and grabbing personal awards will inspire other Arab footballers to go to the big leagues in Europe and prove their 
talent on some of the biggest stages in the world.
“It has always been difficult for players to head overseas. In Egypt, it is different. They are open to fighting hard to make a better life for themselves,” Vingada said.
The rest of the world will get a chance to see how far Salah can take Egypt in the World Cup when the team’s chances of a place in the knockout stage may depend on the final game against Saudi Arabia. The two Arab nations have been drawn together in Group A with hosts Russia and South America powerhouses Uruguay.
“In Saudi Arabia, people will be proud of what he has doing as he is a Muslim and an Arab but ultimately he is Egyptian,” said Vingada. “It won’t be easy for Saudi Arabia to stop him. He is one of the best players in the world at the moment and if anyone can lead Egypt to the second round, he can.”
That would end what may just be a perfect season for Mohamed Salah.


Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

Updated 11 min 48 sec ago
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Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

  • Afghan smashes four sixes and two fours off ten balls
  • Leggie then snares wickets of Uthappa, Lynn and Russell

A couple of days before what was effectively an Indian Premier League (IPL) semifinal against a Kolkata Knight Riders side backed by over 60,000 raucous fans, Rashid Khan told Michael Clarke, former captain of Australia, that he wanted to be known as an all-rounder.
When he came into bat on Friday night, the Hyderabad innings was going nowhere — 134 for 6, with just 13 balls remaining. Off the ten that he faced, Rashid smashed four sixes and two fours to finish with 34 as an under-par score became a competitive one.
In the defense of that total, Kane Williamson opted not to bowl Rashid in the Power Play. By the time he came on, Kolkata had raced to 67 from six overs. His first over went for just three, and gave his teammates time to breathe.
By the end of the night, he had the vital wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, a run-out and two catches as Kolkata, who needed 82 from 60 balls at one stage, fell 13 short. Afterwards, as the praise rained down, he didn’t forget to dedicate his man of the match award to those in his home town who were killed by a bomb blast at a cricket match a few days earlier.
“Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar. “Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
It’s not even been three years since Rashid, who only turns 20 in October, made his debut for Afghanistan. He has already harvested 100 ODI wickets in just 42 innings, and has been the scourge of batsmen in Twenty20 leagues as far apart as Australia, the Caribbean and India.
His IPL numbers are outstanding. Last season, his first in the league, he took 17 wickets and was one of only two bowlers at the top of the charts to concede less than 7 an over. This year, his 21 wickets are second only to Andrew Tye (24), while his economy rate is the best of anyone in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list.
In the age of ultra-slow-mo video and extensive data crunching, Rashid’s bowling remains a mystery to many. He can not only rip his leg-breaks and googlies, but he bowls them at such a pace that playing him off the pitch is fraught with risk. In a league as frenetic as the IPL, where consistency is the biggest challenge for bowlers, this was the sixth time that Rashid had taken at least two wickets this season.
In every respect, Rashid is the first global superstar from an emerging cricket nation. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, his Hyderabad teammate, helped put Afghan cricket on the map, but it’s Rashid’s skill that has been instrumental in their acceptance at the top table.
By the time Sri Lanka got Test status in 1982, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias were widely recognized as world-class batsmen. Zimbabwe’s promotion up the ranks was largely due to the all-round prowess of Duncan Fletcher at the World Cup in 1983 and a marvellous innings from Dave Houghton four years later. But none of them had millions watching their every move.
Rashid’s success will also inspire young men like Sandeep Lamichhane, who made a tremendous impact in the latter part of the season with Delhi Daredevils. Another gifted leggie with a beautiful action, Lamichhane knows that such displays can put Nepal cricket under the spotlight as he and the national team seek to mimic Afghanistan’s progress.
For a long time, Indian cricket board officials scoffed at the notion of players from such countries playing in the IPL. Now, after a season in which Rashid, Lamichhane and Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old prodigy from Afghanistan, have all starred, it’s only a matter of time before the franchises spread their scouting nets even wider.
For Rashid, there’s the small matter of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test as well, a fortnight after the end of the IPL. India will be without Virat Kohli, and it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be dishing out a square turner to greet the new boys. Rashid’s prowess should see to that.