Football star Salah included in top FIFA candidates list

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah misses a chance as Burnley’s Nick Pope attempts to save during a recent match in England. (Reuters)
Updated 08 September 2019

Football star Salah included in top FIFA candidates list

  • Nomination triggers debate in Egypt over his Premier League performance this year

CAIRO: Egyptian Liverpool player Mohamed Salah has been included in the FIFA FIFPro World11 candidates list, which includes 55 nominations for 2019.

Salah, who plays right wing, won the 2019 UEFA Champions League, and holds two top-scorer awards for the Premier League in the last two seasons.

But his nomination has triggered debate in Egypt over his Premier League performance this year, and his relatively poor play in the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt this summer.

“I was a bit surprised to see him named after his performances last season,” said Amr Hassan, political and sports analyst at Euronews.

“Salah had a great season, finished as the Premiership’s top goal scorer and helped Liverpool win the Champions League … but by his own standards and compared to the season before, he underachieved.”

Salah was also criticized for supporting his teammate Amr Warda, who was accused of harassment during the Africa Cup of Nations and was temporarily banned from the squad.

“This year, Salah unnecessarily got involved in off-the-pitch incidents like supporting Amr Warda after he was accused of sexual harassment, only to come back later and say that Warda needs rehabilitation,” Hassan said.

“The stance was very contradictory to what he previously said about the need to respect women in the Middle East,” Hassan added.

“It affected his performance with Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations, which was a massive disappointment to all Egyptian fans.”

Host country Egypt was ousted in the round of 16 by South Africa. Activists launched a wave of criticism against Salah for his support of Warda, who was dubbed the “harasser.”

After the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah thanked fans in a tweet, and promised that he and other team members would learn from the mistakes made during the tournament.

“People in Egypt have mixed emotions about Salah,” said sports analyst Marwan Negm. “Most people are fanatics when it comes to his achievements with Liverpool. However, a lot of people were disappointed with the African tournament in terms of his commitment and his support for Warda.

“Many thought he should’ve stepped up in the cup, which he didn’t do. He absolutely gave everything but wasn’t successful. Nevertheless, I’d say the majority love him, and they follow Liverpool because of him.”

According to FIFA, the World11 is decided by players, and involves votes from thousands of professional footballers from across the world.

During voting, players each select one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forward.

The final list will be announced at the Best FIFA Football Award ceremony at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on Sept. 23.


Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.