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

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.

 


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”