SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

Social game changer: 40m people in Egypt praying for Mo and Liverpool

By Abdelaziz Abuhamar

December 28 – Egypt and Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah  is a goal scoring phenomenon. His goal in Wednesday’s win for Liverpool was his 25th in 28 home Premier League games. He has scored 12 goals in 19 games this season. But Mo Salah has become much more than a goal scoring machine.

There is a misconception among some people, including a section of the media, that Mohammed Salah comes from a poor family. This is not true.

Yes, he was not so rich before he became a professional footballer and saw a meteoric rise in his career graph, but he was not from a poor family. In fact, he hailed from a middle-class family.

His village, Nagreeg, is just 2km away from this writer’s village in Egypt’s Delta Zone. Mo Salah belongs to the well-respected ‘Ghaly’ family which has contributed many top professionals, in different walks of life, to Egyptian society.

His father, Haj Salah, was also a footballer, a defender, and the Ghaly family is known for nurturing a lot of talented players, including Salah’s uncle Mashhour Gahly, who is now a popular lawyer in the Arab world.

Even before Salah’s entry on to the world stage, Nagreeg was well known for producing good footballers like Fawzy Elsaeedi, known as ‘Rivaldo of Basyuin’, a club in Egypt’s second tier, based in the municipal town of Basyuin, just 4km away from Nagreeg.

Another extraordinary player who belongs to this area is Sherif Manqola. One of the best playmakers in the region’s history, Sherif, also from Nageerg, was very popular with the Basyuin fans – Sherif is a close member of Mo’s extended family. Sherif once tipped to play for Egypt’s top teams, like Ahly & Zamalek.

Yet another prominent footballer from Nagreeg was Maher Shetia, now the ‘village chief’, who was not only an excellent player but a team leader as well.

Salah has taken this football heritage a stage further. He is now one of the top players in the world, bracketed along with superstars like Messi, Ronaldo and Modric. Salah’s feats with Liverpool, in the English Premier League and European Champions League, are well known.

It is his impact off the field that has been equally game changing for the club in Egypt’s football loving market. If Liverpool retain Salah for another five years, then the English club can cash in on his popularity in Egypt. Thanks to Salah, Liverpool is already the most followed Premier League team in Egypt.

Believe it or not, almost 40 million Egyptian fans were praying for Liverpool’s victory over Napoli, when the teams met in their decisive UEFA Champions League encounter before Christmas. Fans wanted, first, Salah to score and Liverpool to win. No wonder the Egyptian fans were ecstatic as both their wishes were fulfilled.

Salah is indeed an iconic player not only for Egyptians, but for the whole world. May God bless him with more success.

Abdelaziz Abuhamar is an Egyptian bilingual journalist worked for Oman TV, and is a football reporter for many sports papers in Egypt. Now a journalist in Estad-Aldoha, Abdelaziz is also the promoter of mundial11 , the first Pan-Arab Statistics System with wide range of new fact-based stats. You can find him on twitter (@aabuhamar).