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.
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.