Mohamed Salah viewing Champions League final against Real Madrid as ‘just another match’

The Egyptian ace has been the key man in Liverpool’s march to Saturday’s showdown in Kiev against Real Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Mohamed Salah viewing Champions League final against Real Madrid as ‘just another match’

  • The Egyptian ace has been the key man in Liverpool’s march to Saturday’s showdown in Kiev against Real Madrid
  • “Every match is different, this is my first Champions League final so I am very excited. It is of course a very important game”

He may be about to play in the biggest match of his life, but Mohamed Salah is going to approach the Champions League final as if it is just another game.
The Egyptian ace has been the key man in Liverpool’s march to Saturday’s showdown in Kiev against Real Madrid, scoring 11 goals and setting up a further four. Added to that has been his dynamic domestic form with the 25-year-old’s 32 LePremier ague strikes setting a new record and helping him land a host of awards, among them the coveted PFA Player of the Year gong.
All that has piled the pressure on Salah ahead of the final. But if you thought that would get to him then think again, with the Liverpool talisman claiming he is going into the clash as he would any other match.
“I cannot put more pressure on myself so I just play a normal game for me,” Salah said at a press conference announcing he is the new DHL brand ambassador for the MENA region.
“Of course, it is different, it’s the final of the Champions League, but you have to take it easy, relax and enjoy the game.
“Every match is different, this is my first Champions League final so I am very excited. It is of course a very important game.
“But I am trying not to take it too seriously and not put myself under too much pressure, both for me as an individual and the team as a whole.”
It should perhaps come as no surprise to hear the Liverpool and Egypt star talk about the biggest game in club football in such understated terms. Salah’s 44 goals have all come with the kind of smile on his face which suggests he is playing with a freedom normally associated with a kid having a kickabout with his mates in the park. Added to that, Liverpool’s progression to the final has come virtue of a devil-may-care attitude that hints that passion rather than pressure is what has been on their mind every time they walk onto the pitch.
That philosophy has been instilled to them by their coach Jurgen Klopp. The German is revered as much by the players as by Liverpool’s fans and Salah is in no doubt as to how important he has been to his form and the team’s remarkable Champions League run.
“From day one we are friends, he treats me like a friend,” Salah said of Klopp.
“We are very close to each other but still he’s the coach and I am a player. He is a great man and as a coach you can see everyone loves him.”
Standing in the way of Salah and Co. from lifting Liverpool’s sixth European Cup are Real Madrid. While the Spanish giants have not hit the heights of previous campaigns, they stand on the verge of a third Champions League crown in a row, and, with Cristiano Ronaldo in fine form, will provide the Reds’ toughest test yet.
Such has been the heights he has hit this season that Salah has often been compared to Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, and touted to become the first player since 2007 other than that duo to win the Ballon d’Or. It is a comparison he has sought to distance himself from and once again he downplayed any idea that the final was a case of him verses the Portuguese star.
“He is a top-level player, but as he said he plays with his right foot and I play with my left,” Salah said.
“We are both focused on playing well in the final and trying to win it for our teams. All I can do is try hard and focus on doing well for Liverpool.
“I want to get to a higher and higher level, I am hoping to do well in the final and we are going to go there to do well in the final and to try and claim the trophy.”


Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

Updated 18 October 2018
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Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

  • Lebanon have made it to their first Asian Cup since 2000 and are up to 77th in world rankings.
  • Oumari feels the Cedars have what it takes to upset a few of the big guns.

LONDON: While much of the focus ahead of the Asian Cup will be on defending champions Australia, who are one of the favorites, along with Japan and South Korea, Lebanon’s Joan Oumari is hoping his side can grab people’s attention and cause a shock or two.
The Cedars’ last appearance at the tournament came back in 2000 when they were hosts — this is the first time they have qualified for the tournament on merit.
Since their FIFA world ranking fell to 147 in 2016, Lebanon have been one of Asia’s most improved and in-form teams, with their ranking jumping to its current position of 77 — the highest in their history.
Drawn alongside regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea in Group E, it will not be easy, but Oumari, one of their star players, is convinced they can put on a show when the tournament gets under way in January.
“I think when we play and stay like we are now we can go far,” the defender told Arab News. “In football everything is possible and we have a great team.”
Oumari knows that just being back at the Asian Cup after a 19-year absence is already a victory for the nation of six million people.
“For sure it is a great thing for us as a national team, but also for all the people (of Lebanon),” the 30-year-old said. “I hope we will write history and get very far in this tournament.”
Oumari’s journey to play for the Cedars is an interesting, and not unfamiliar one in the recent climate of war, family displacement and refugees. His parents, both born in Lebanon, fled the country during the civil war of the 1970s, making their way to Germany, where Oumari was born in 1988.
Starting his professional career in the lower divisions, he gradually worked his way through the professional tiers of club football in Germany, playing for SV Babelsberg in the fourth division, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the third tier, before making the step up to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga in 2013.
Along the way he came to the attention of the Lebanon Football Association, and when the invitation came to join the Cedars in 2013, there was no hesitation in accepting and representing the country of his heritage, if not his birth.
“When I got the invitation from the national team for sure I didn’t have to think about it,” he recalled. “I was very proud to play for the national team.”
His debut in a 2-0 win against Syria in September 2013 did not go to plan, however, getting sent off late in the game. His next appearance would not come for almost two years after Miodrag Radulovic had taken over as coach.
“To be honest it was my decision not to play for the national team for these two years,” he said.
“The main reason was our ex-coach (Giuseppe) Giannini, because after he invited me to the national team I was on the bench and I am not used to flying all over the world just to sit on the bench.
“I am not a player who sits on the bench in my club and not in the national team. After Mr. Radulovic started at the national team the federation called me and convinced me to come.”
The change in fortunes for the Cedars since Radulovic took over has been remarkable, and as it stands they are one of the most in-form teams in Asia, going 16 games without a loss dating back to March 2016.
A friendly match with defending Asian Cup champions Australia in Sydney next month will be sure to provide tougher competition, but given their form they travel to Sydney confident of causing an upset.
While the Asian Cup is within touching distance, Oumari’s immediate focus is on club matters and trying to help his side avoid relegation. Having made the move to Japan’s Sagan Tosu, becoming the first Lebanese player to play in the J.League, Oumari has been in and out of a side that has struggled for consistency and currently lie 17th in the 18-team league.
“I hope that we can avoid relegation and stay up, that’s why I came to help the team,” he said.
One of his new teammates in Japan is Spanish World Cup winner Fernando Torres, and despite the team’s struggles on the field, Oumari is loving his time in Japan.
“It’s really nice here and I like it very much,” he said. “I am enjoying the time with my teammates after training. For sure Fernando (Torres) is a great football player and any football player can learn from him no matter which position you are playing.”