Monday,19 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Monday,19 November, 2018
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Again, Salah and EFA duel

What started out as a tweet on Sunday night turned into an epic battle between Egypt’s star player Mohamed Salah and the Egyptian Football Association, reports Abeer Anwar

Again, Salah and EFA duel
Again, Salah and EFA duel
Al-Ahram Weekly

There has been a recurrent scenario of tension between Egypt’s football star Mohamed Salah and the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). Tempers flared at the start of this summer when Salah spoke out against the EFA for image rights after his photo was put on a private EgyptAir national team plane which violated Salah’s sponsorship deals. The EFA eventually said it would “give up its rights” and removed Salah’s pictures from its ads.

But there was more to come when Salah was invited to attend a special event with controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov before the Russia World Cup. The EFA promoted pictures of Salah alongside Kadyrov who made the player an honourary citizen of the republic where the national team trained. 

On Sunday 26 August Liverpool’s Salah tweeted his anger anew at the EFA for not responding to his lawyer’s e-mails. “Naturally any football union seeks to solve the problems of its players. But really what I see is exactly the opposite. It is not natural that my letters and my lawyer’s letters are ignored. I don’t know why this is happening. Don’t you have time to answer us?” Salah asked.

Salah was referring to a letter and an e-mail that was sent to the president of the EFA, Hani Abu Rida, on 11 August. Salah’s lawyer Rami Abbas had asked in his e-mail for a number of guarantees regarding Salah’s “well-being” while on the national team, and assurances that the image rights violations would not be repeated. 

In a press conference held on Monday 27 August after an EFA board meeting held to discuss Salah’s issue, Ahmed Megahed, EFA board member, made it clear that when Abbas sent an e-mail to Abu Rida, Abbas received a direct response from Abu Rida that he must write an official letter and address it to the EFA.

A letter was sent by Abbas on 23 August which Megahed characterised as “inappropriate and its language disrespectful”, noting that Abu Rida was not only the EFA president but also a CAF board member and FIFA Executive Committee member.

In turn, Abbas said the Liverpool forward would demand that the EFA board step down if it fell short of meeting Salah’s demands.

Megahed said the EFA was sure Salah was not aware what his lawyer was writing, adding that the EFA had promised Salah just one thing after the Russia World Cup. “We promised to back the player in the UEFA best player vote and that is what we did. We asked the new coach of the national team, Javier Aguirre and [national team goalkeeper and captain] Essam Al-Hadari to vote on the UEFA website. Not only that, but we launched a campaign for the player in other countries to give their vote to Salah. We were not asked for anything more.

“But all of a sudden we were faced with a number of demands made for Salah or else he will not show up for the national team training camp on 2 September,” Megahed said.

Salah has been included in a 13-man foreign-based players list for the match against Niger in the 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers set for 8 September.

A letter from Abbas was sent to the EFA on 23 August, which marked the third day of Eid Al-Adha in Egypt. “We were not late, since Friday and Saturday were off and today, Monday, we held a meeting to answer the letter sent by Salah’s lawyer so we did not ignore him by any means,” added Megahed, responding to Abbas’ accusation that the EFA was tardy in its reply to Salah. 

In the letter, Abbas slammed the EFA over its handling of a previous image row with Salah ahead of the World Cup. He also pointed the finger at the association for Egypt’s failure to bag a single point in Russia after three Group A defeats.

“You have not made Mohamed comfortable while he was on international duty and I cannot think of any other national association which would treat any player in the disgraceful and abhorrent manner as you have treated Mohamed,” Abbas wrote in the letter.

“Your World Cup failure is the direct result of the incompetent management which you have displayed ever since Mohamed scored that stoppage time penalty against Congo. Success on the field took a back seat ever since.”

Abbas sent a list of seven demands that included the presence of two security guards with Salah when he is on international duty.

He also said no one should be allowed to ask Salah for photographs and that his client “will not be expected to be made available for any promotional appearances, interviews, meets and greets, sponsor events, official visits, VIP visits, picture sessions, or anything, by anyone on behalf of the EFA.

“Should you not respond within the aforementioned timeframe or should your response in any manner that falls short of our expectations, we would consider that you are not willing to accommodate the demands we have set out above and both Mohamed and I would call for the resignation of the president of the EFA and of the entire board.”

Megahed said he was optimistic about reaching an agreement with Salah and his lawyer, revealing that Abbas had backtracked on his strongly-worded letter.

“Following Sunday night’s letter, we are optimistic we can solve this crisis,” Megahed said during the press conference on Monday. “We reject all of Salah’s demands because they are very difficult to meet but we are doing our best to provide the national team players with all means of comfort to the extent that the team has used a private plane on all its trips except for one flight. We are keen on Mohamed Salah and his future because he is one of our sons. We refrained from answering because we didn’t want to sour relations with our most important player,” Megahed said.

The EFA also issued a statement shortly after, criticising Salah’s lawyer for his role in the row and threatening to take legal action against him should he continue his escalation.

“The letter sent [on 23 August] to the president of the EFA does not respect any codes of communication between a player and his agent towards the chief of football in this country and it is completely rejected,” the statement said.

“We won’t tolerate that a third party [Salah’s lawyer] tampers with the relationship between the FA and any of its sons. We totally reject that this party causes trouble during the national team camps which affects the team’s spirit and unity.”

The EFA added that some of the demands seemed exaggerated and others unacceptable, especially, it added, since all the players receive the same treatment and that any request from a player is taken into consideration if it is not excessive and does not violate the rules.

“But if the third party continues such actions, the Egyptian FA will take all the necessary legal measures according to its regulations and the directives and regulations of FIFA,” the statement concluded.

In a six-minute video posted on his Facebook page, Salah defended himself and his lawyer. “I did not ask for bodyguards for myself but for all of us as players on the national team and I think this is normal in all countries. But to be prevented from going down to have my meals with my teammates due to the fact that there are a lot of people downstairs is unacceptable. We as players have the right to move freely. We should not be locked out. We have to live a normal life.” Salah added that what he meant by asking for a special car for him was that he needed one only when coming from the UK to Egypt, not all through the national team’s matches. 

“I don’t have personal requests and I am always and have always been very patriotic to my country, Egypt. I can never say that I am not going to play with Egypt’s national team or anything related to this. Everyone knows who Salah is.” 

Salah also criticised the EFA for making all his lawyers’ e-mails and letters available to the media which he said is illegal and which is why he was obliged to record a video “to give the people the chance to know the reality from the two sides, not just from the EFA’s point of view”.

The EFA was third in Egypt’s Twitter views after Salah’s tweet was retweeted thousands of times.

A number of public figures, including businessman Naguib Sawiris, former player Ahmed ‘Mido’ Hossam and TV presenter Amr Adeeb sided with Salah while criticising the EFA. Several journalists went the other way, bashing Salah for his demands and what they deemed a request for preferential treatment. Fans on social media had strong words for the EFA.

Several people have created Facebook pages demanding the EFA be disbanded for the team’s poor performance in Russia and its treatment of Salah.

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