Egypt defends choice of Chechnya as World Cup base

Hani Abu Reida, president of the Egyptian Football Federation, addresses the media on the team's return to Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2018
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Egypt defends choice of Chechnya as World Cup base

  • Choice of Chechnya raised many eyebrows
  • Federation president dismisses suggestion Mohamed Salah was used in Chechnya by former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov as a political tool

CAIRO: The head of Egypt's soccer federation on Wednesday defended the decision to select Chechnya as the base of the country's World Cup squad in Russia but did not directly address accusations that Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah was used for political purposes there.
Hany Abo Rida told reporters in Cairo that Chechen capital Grozny was selected on technical grounds, but acknowledged the federation had considered at one point to move its base, but decided not to for fear that the move might hurt Egypt's close relations with Russia.
"We could not as a football federation be held responsible for tensions or problems between Egypt and Russia," he said.
The federation's choice of Chechnya raised many eyebrows because it meant huge distances to travel to matches and because of the poor human rights record of its leader, former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov.
Abo Rida also dismissed perceptions that Salah was used in Chechnya by Kadyrov as a political tool as "outside talk," an apparent reference to criticism in the British media about Salah's meeting with the Chechen leader.
Kadyrov granted Salah honorary citizenship during a dinner banquet for the Egyptian squad Friday. Salah is said to have been particularly annoyed by the event and said this week he was considering retiring from Egypt's national team.
"The Chechen leader met Salah as a fan and not as a head of state," Abo Rida said. "That the Chechen leader received Salah and honored him is like he honored the entire Egyptian population."
Salah, the Premier League's player of the season and top scorer with 44 goals, returned to Egypt on Tuesday after the Pharaohs were eliminated from the World Cup with three consecutive losses in the group stage. It was Egypt's appearance at soccer's premier tournament since 1990. Salah came into the tournament in Russia after being injured in the Champions League final last month.
Salah has yet to publicly say anything about the team's stay in Grozny, but he looked visibly upset during the team's training in Volgograd on Sunday and didn't celebrate his goal against Saudi Arabia in the final group match Monday. In a post-match interview, he somberly apologized to the fans who traveled to Russia to support the team.
Salah, 26, was an unused substitute in Egypt's 1-0 loss to Uruguay, but scored from a penalty he won in a 3-1 defeat from Russia and scored Egypt's first World Cup goal from open play against Saudi Arabia in a 2-1 loss.


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.