Mohamed Salah: An Egyptian perspective

Ian Walton

Disclaimer: There will be one paragraph relating to the politics of Mohamed Salah. It's almost impossible to separate those two issues if I want to fully address the community's reaction to the player. I read the Community Guidelines to ensure that what follows confirms. The relevant part: " Occasionally, something will happen which makes one of those topics [politics and religion] relevant to Chelsea [...]. Even in the rare case that one of these topics directly relates to the matter at hand, tread lightly and keep things to the matter at hand." I will do my best to keep it as devoid of contentiousness as possible.

A small bit of background about me. I'm Egyptian. I was born and raised in Egypt but emigrated to Switzerland with my family about 5 years ago. I am far from patriotic (I would say at present I'm almost indifferent towards my homeland) and have almost always maintained that nationalism is an outdated notion. I never connected with the Egyptian National Team and always preferred my club of choice. My allegiance to Chelsea is one I chose while the allegiance to Egypt was chosen for me. I've also never really liked Salah that much but after reading the numerous reactions to his signing I felt compelled to if not defend my compatriot at least offer context and perspective.

First the footballing. Stephen's report covers all the important points. Mohamed Salah is a left footed right winger with explosive pace and confidence on the ball but also an eye for the final pass. In situations that don't lend themselves to highlight reel footage he is more inclined to use the players around him and "pass and go". If I would add something to Stephen's report it would be that during a striker problem for the Egyptian National Team (that sounds familiar) Bob Bradley elected to play Salah in the lone striker role where he scored more than a few times.

Here's the obligatory Skills and Goals reel. The end shows you that he doesn't like Tottenham either.

It seems EDM in highlight reels is a universal thing. Who knew.

Contrary to some comments, I think that Salah is far from an average player. He is extremely talented and in the development stage of still being able to round out his game under the right manager. While he's a downgrade from Mata I feel that he fits better in our team and adds more to our balance. The reason is that he much prefers the right wing while Mata's best comes when he plays centrally. Salah is also very tenacious when he loses the ball and it's true that his defensive ability isn't amazing he does press well and I'm sure that under Mourinho his pressing will improve the same way Hazard's magically did over the summer. If I would summarize I would say Salah is a rougher, wider, right-side version of Hazard with a lower ceiling. I won't be 100% sure until we see him play against tougher competition than the Swiss Super League but he did excel at every level he played in to this point.

Mohamed Salah is also a very hard worker. In this interview (unfortunately it's in Arabic) he said he looked up more to Ronaldo than Messi because of the former's insane work ethic. His work ethic pays off too. This December he won the Swiss Association of Football Players' Golden Player 2013 award.

It is important to also examine Salah's work ethic in light of an important fact: he is considered by Egyptians (and Bob Bradley) to be the future of Egyptian football and it's no exaggeration when I say that currently he is the best Egyptian footballer. For almost all of his short career Salah had to shoulder that pressure. When I was in Egypt in January of 2012 I was told of an enormous young talent who will probably transfer to Europe soon. That's almost unheard of. Egyptian players almost never transfer to Europe and when they do it's never as young prospects. As a result they develop in the corrupt, unprofessional and undisciplined Egyptian footballing environment and almost never reach their full potential. Salah managed to escape that to the no-nonsense, disciplined Switzerland and now he'll play for Chelsea. He is in the unenviable position of having almost every action be followed and scrutinized by everyone in Egypt. In the above interview he repeats how his play is a reflection on Egypt and it's clear to me that that thought is always on his mind. He doesn't just play to advance himself but also to represent his country. Oscar or Hazard don't have to think about how their performance in the 3rd round tie of the FA Cup reflects on Brazil or Belgium. In most of the interviews I've seen of him he expresses his hope that his performances lead to more European clubs considering Egyptian prospects. That's a lot of pressure for a 21 year.

Remember when I said "every action is scrutinized"? I really wasn't exaggerating. Here's him accepting his Golden Player 2013 award:

At 0:18 he did something any sane person wouldn't even notice but Egypt isn't a sane place and him kissing the presenter became this huge controversy in Egypt. So much so that, for him, it overshadowed the accomplishment (another Arabic interview). When you also consider that he came to Switzerland without knowing a single word of German/French/Italian/Romansh or English I would say he's done as good of a job as anyone would expect of handling those enormous expectations and that level of scrutiny.

Here we come to that paragraph. Like Stephen did in regards to the footballing aspect, Kevin did so for Salah's "controversy". As with most footballers, Salah was born to family of modest means and didn't have the benefit of complete education that most of people in the West take for granted. From what I gathered football was his only focus. As such the only contact he had with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is Egyptian society's attitude towards the issue. While it's true that religion creeps into the conversation a lot, contrary to popular belief, the conflict is a secular one for most people. I saw the word "ass-hat" and similar directed towards Salah. I think those are unfair. As much as we like to think otherwise international sports don't happen in a vacuum. Politics are inherent to the undertaking. Most Arab countries, including Egypt, are in a cultural boycott of Israel (that's why Maccabi Tel Aviv play in the European Champions League in the first place) and Salah broke that boycott. While his behavior isn't commendable, he did play both matches. Keep in mind that not only were there people on the internet coming in on the issue but probably everyone he knew was also telling him what to do (some voices would surprise you; there's a rumor that Salah's father is the one that forced him to play). I'm not denying that there is a current of antisemitism in Egyptian society but only saying that it's not representative of everyone and that we shouldn't jump to conclusions about Mo. In the interviews I've seen he never mentions a religious aspect and I get the feeling that he's glad that it's over. As Kevin said, the issue isn't easy to digest and (if you allow me just one instance of politics) no side looks good in it and the racism goes both ways.

Some in the community think the transfer isn't a good one but I disagree. Like any move there's a lot of potential and I hope Mohamed Salah succeeds, not because he's Egyptian but because he now wears our crest and because his hard work deserves it.

Rest assured that Mohamed Salah is over the moon about his transfer; Basel were scheduled to play in Israel again in the Europa League, the league where dreams go to die.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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