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.


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.