Liverpool star Salah hits out at Egyptian FA in unusual public spat

In this June 9, 2018, file photo, Egyptian national team football player and Liverpool's star striker Mohamed Salah smiles as he greets fans during the final training of the national team at Cairo Stadium in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 28 August 2018
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Liverpool star Salah hits out at Egyptian FA in unusual public spat

  • “It is not normal that my messages and my lawyer’s messages are ignored..." Salah tweeted
  • Salah’s tweet was widely shared in Egypt, where he is seen as a national hero

CAIRO: In a bold and unusual move, Liverpool's mild-mannered star Mohamed Salah took to the social media to launch a scathing criticism of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) on Monday, getting the backing of many fans who believe the governing body was to blame for the World Cup fiasco.

When Salah scored in Egypt's final Group A clash against Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, which they eventually lost 2-1, his muted goal celebration fueled reports suggesting an uneasy relationship with the EFA.

He gave a hint of what may unfold when he said in a famous tweet on July 1st: "Some might think it’s over but it isn’t over. There needs to be change," without disclosing further details.

An image row between Salah and the EFA clouded the preparations for Egypt's first World Cup appearance in 28 years and it resurfaced on Sunday when the 26-year-old said he was frustrated that his messages to the governing body went unanswered as he sought guarantees that such disputes would not happen again.

A strongly-worded letter sent by Salah's lawyer Ramy Abbas to the EFA earlier this month was leaked to Egyptian media, in which he listed seven demands that he said must be accepted, including getting assurances that the player's image rights would not be violated.

Otherwise, Abbas said he and his Salah would ask for the resignation of the association's president and its entire board of directors.

"You must respond to this letter by Monday, 27 August 2018. Your response should unequivocally confirm your acceptance to all the above," Abbas wrote in the email, which was full of rants against the EFA.

"Should you not respond within the aforementioned timeframe or should your response in any manner fall short of our expectations, we would consider that you are not willing to accommodate the demands we have set out above and both Mohamed and I would, call for the resignation of the President of the EFA and of the entire board of the EFA."

The demands also included that two security guards be present with Salah while he is on international duty after the player complained of people "knocking at his door at 4 am" to ask for photographs.

Monday exchanges

On Monday, things quickly developed. While the EFA shied away from directing any criticism at Egypt's prized asset, Salah seemed determined to escalate his feud with the association.

The EFA pointed the finger at Abbas for what it called "tempering with the relation between the FA and its sons" and said it would not tolerate any foul language. It also said it cannot accept all the demands to avoid giving preferential treatment to any of the players.

Later in the day, Salah released three videos on Facebook to reveal his concerns, hitting out at those who questioned his patriotism.

"I don't have any personal problems with anyone and I don't think anybody has a personal problem with me. I apologise that I'm speaking while I'm not the national team Captain, but I do this as some players don't want to speak out," he said in an unusual angry tone.

"I asked for more security to all players, not only for me. We had many disturbances at the team's camp during our participation at the World Cup in Russia. I couldn't go to the restaurant twice as they told me you won't be able to go there for your own safety due to the crowd inside the hotel.

"I am not asking for anything personal, if so point it out. You tried to make me look as someone who hates Egypt, but I am sure people won't believe it as they always see me do my best on the pitch for my country."

The videos garnered more than three million views and tens of thousands of comments, with the majority standing by Salah and accusing the EFA of mistreating the 26-year-old.

"Is this how you treat one of the best players in the world? This is really shameful. A player who is competing for the world's best player award is asking for very simple things and you do not want to listen to him," said one user.

Salah is a hero in Egypt, having reached unprecedented heights for any Egyptian footballer. He won several individual awards last season following a dream debut campaign with Liverpool, scoring 44 goals in all competitions including 32 in the elite Premier League - a record in a 38-game top-flight campaign.

He enhanced his cult status in the country when his famous stoppage-time penalty last year ended Egypt's 28-year wait for a World Cup appearance following a dramatic 2-1 home win over Congo.

 


Saudi Arabia stars told to play abroad in order for the Green Falcons to improve

Updated 19 November 2018
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Saudi Arabia stars told to play abroad in order for the Green Falcons to improve

  • AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh backs Saudi side to get out their Asian Cup group.
  • The Scot, however, warns Green Falcon stars they need to spread their wings to ensure longer-term success.

LONDON: AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh has backed Saudi Arabia to get out of their group at next year’s Asian Cup, but urged players of both countries to gain international experience in Europe’s top leagues. 
In October the Green Falcons lost 2-0 against a star-studded Brazil side and drew 1-1 with Iraq on home soil as preparations for January’s continental championship in the UAE intensified. They then took that form into their 1-0 win over Yemen last week and face Jordan today.
At the 2015 Asian Cup Saudi Arabia were eliminated in the first round, finishing third in a group with China, Uzbekistan and North Korea. 
But Roxburgh, pictured right, who has been AFC technical director for four years, has backed them to do better this time around, highlighting the stability that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s contract extension after the World Cup will give the Green Falcons. 
“Anything that creates continuity and stability is helpful in football,” Roxburgh told Arab News.
“If you are constantly changing the coach every two minutes it isn’t helpful for anybody. Pizzi’s CV is obviously very good having won with Chile in South America and clearly he has a good background.
“They have only won (two matches in their past 10) and that was against Egypt in Russia. Losing to Brazil, though, is clearly not a big deal. That is pretty par for the course, but from the group they are in with North Korea,  Lebanon and Qatar you would expect them to qualify for the next stage.” 

Andy Roxburgh wants to see the young guns that won Saudi Arabia the U-19 Asian Championship go abroad to further their footballing education. (AFP)


Earlier this month Saudi Arabian football received a boost as their side qualified for next year’s U-20 World Cup in Poland. Goals from Turki Al-Ammar and Khaled Issa Al-Ghannam helped the Young Falcons become the U-19 Asian Champions for a third time as they defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final in Jakarta. Roxburgh praised the performance, but warned against reading too much into results from youth football. 
“They have got some very good attacking players in the team,” said Roxburgh. “I just analyzed all the goals from that tournament, 117 goals. The Saudi boys, from the midfield to the attack — some were obviously good on the ball and they could beat people and finish.
“How many might star in the national team? You will be lucky if it is one. So, although it is very positive in a youth development sense, it can only be viewed in the context of the national team in the long term. It would mean that Saudi Arabia need to continue to do well.
“That is where Japan, over many years, have been doing consistently well at youth level. A lot of players that have been coming out of these teams are now playing for the Japanese national team.”
At senior level Japan, the 2011 Asian champions, have benefitted immensely from the international experience their players have gained abroad. In October the Samurai Blue had 10 foreign-based players in their 23-man squad, while Saudi Arabia had none. To bridge the gap with the Asian elite Saudi Arabia and the West Asian region at large need more players to ply their trade in Europe, according to Roxburgh. 
“Whether you like it or not, the top leagues in Europe have the best players in the world,” said Roxburgh. “They have the resources, the money and the crowds. Players from all over the world, inevitably, congregate there. That experience is invaluable when they come back to their national team. Japan and Australia, and to a lesser extent Iran, benefit from that. In the case of the UAE and in particular Saudi Arabia, when you think about it, they are all home-based. So, this is one of the things: As long as the players in the West Asian teams don’t experience the highest level of club football, then that will always be a problem.” 
Still, Roxburgh believes that the Asian Cup will be a very competitive and open tournament as a 24-team format is introduced for the first time.
“It is wide open,” said Roxburgh. “It is not easy to predict this. The tournament comes so fast after the World Cup. If you take what happened in Europe with the expanded European championship. They thought this would be a problem and it turned out the opposite, because of the success of the small countries like Wales and Iceland.”