Egyptian football is a little strange. They are, historically, Africa's best team -- they've won the Cup of Nations nine times, after all, including three in succession at the end of last decade. But their success hasn't travelled. As far as I'm aware no Egyptian has ever made a huge impression at the top end of European football despite having some quite wonderful players, and the last time the Pharoahs even went to the World Cup was 1990.
I'm not by any means a serious student of sporting history and there's no way I could do the story of Egyptian football justice here; I'm just providing some background for the arrival of 21-year-old winger Mohamed Salah at Stamford Bridge. He's Chelsea's first Egyptian player and one of the Pharoahs' best, having shone with Basel over the past few seasons before impressing the Blues enough in 2013 for them to agree a transfer fee reported to be in the realm of £12 million for his signature.
And there's a lot of weight on his shoulders:
[T]his is a great step for Salah and we wish him good luck with Chelsea. I ask all the Egyptian teams to let their players go to Europe and play there. Just look to the strong teams in Africa and how many of their players play in Europe and that is what makes them strong
-Amr Zaki, Raja Casablanca.
I am proud that Salah joined to Chelsea. This shows that I was right when I refused to sell him to Egyptian teams like Zamalek and Al Ahly. Now Salah is making a name for Egyptian players in Europe after Ahmed Mido Hossam retired.
-Sherif Habib, chairman Arab Contractors. Source: SuperSport.
I've always enjoyed players from new countries, especially ones not already renowned for footballing success, coming to the club. Chelsea are one of the top clubs in the world, and without getting an over-inflated sense of importance, we represent a certain goal for many if not most young footballers. If you make it at the club, you've made it in general, and being the first from your country to make it to the very top has a certain pioneering feel to it, one that I think drives players to get even better.
Salah certainly has the chance to make an impression now, and with Basel developing into a talent pipeline from Egypt a similar transfer in a few year's time might not end up being very big news. But for now it's exciting and fresh and new and interesting and although I have my doubts on the need to spend so much money on another winger I'm looking forward to see what our new man can do.
When this is all finalised, of course...
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