Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Good news

Salah could be the happiest person on the planet after a week of nightmares following his call to military service. Ahmed Hamdi reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Chelsea player, Mohamed Salah, might have doubts about answering phone calls from Egypt from now on. This past week the 22-year-old was expelled from The Higher Institute of Advanced Studies, where he has been registered as a student, a status protecting him from being called into obligatory military service. Before Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab intervened on his behalf, Salah faced the possibility of prematurely ending his European football career.

The expulsion meant Salah would have to return to Egypt for a two-year period of military service, ending his brief stint in the English Premier League. Prior to the Higher Institute of Advanced Studies’ decision to reinstate Salah, his only chance to sidestep military service was to stay in Europe until the age of 30, at which point he could return home and pay a fine.

However, this also would have meant that Salah would not have been able to play for the national team.

National team director Ahmed Hassan showed support for Salah during his crisis, saying that Salah had been in shock since hearing the news. The former national team captain also clarified that Salah is disappointed with the way his country is repaying him for representing it well abroad.

National team coach Shawki Gharib also supported Salah, asking officials to solve the problem and expressing his discontent for poor treatment of what has possibly been the best player to ever represent Egypt in Europe. Gharib even asked the officials to treat Salah like an ambassador, since he is honouring the country in his sport.

Egyptians were also disappointed with the decision of the Minister of Higher Education, Al-Sayed Abdel Khalik. Islam Rami believes that the country has always been fighting against the success of its talented citizens. “I don’t know why it is always the same story, once a person is close to success everyone tries to destroy him,” the young man told the Weekly.

Rami’s opinion was supported by Ahmed Yasser who believes that Abdel Khalik has taken a disastrous decision in expelling Salah. “We dream everyday of having our young players travel to Europe to play for big teams and represent Egypt well,” the 21-year-old said. “Salah did that and opened the door for many others, but suddenly a minister decides to end all this just because he can. What a shame!” he added.

Despite the opinions of those in support of Salah, others were sympathetic while still feeling he must return and complete his service. They believe in equality of all Egyptian citizens, which means that he should not be treated differently. “I know he is a great player and I am happy he has reached where he is now, I don’t want him to return to Egypt but he is not better than all of us who are obligated to serve in the army,” said Ahmed Saeed.

The British media reported on Salah’s issue in its papers. The Daily Mail published a story with the headline “Mo Salah’s Chelsea future in doubt as he faces up to two years of military service in Egypt.” Metro also ran a story with a headline stating that “Chelsea midfielder Mohamed Salah could be forced into military service by Egyptian government.”

An Egyptian man named Mohamed Mansour commented Metro’s story online, saying that it never should have made headlines. “I am Egyptian and I could tell you now, many similar cases happened in the past and Salah will get exempted... No story!”

However, when it comes to the fate of other Egyptian players in similar situations, Mr. Mansour is not exactly correct. Former Zamalek player, Ayman Abdelaziz, stayed in Turkey until the age of 30 when he returned to Egypt to pay his fine. Abdelaziz was thus barred from representing the national team in several African Cup of Nations tournaments.

On the other hand, another story was of former Zamalek player, Mahmoud Abdelrazik “Shikabala.” The talented young man became the star of PAOK, one of the biggest teams in Greece, between 2005 and 2007, and was known by many as the “Rivaldo of Greece” carrying the name of the famous Brazilian player.

As Shikabala was closing in on a big move in his career, by joining Dutch team PSV Eindhoven, he was called into military service in Egypt. Unlike Abdelaziz, Shikabala decided to go back home and serve. He joined Zamalek and represented the Egyptian national team during his service period.

Salah’s situation was ultimately resolved however when Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb intervened, ordering Abdel Khalik to solve the problem immediately. Salah’s expulsion was nulled and he resumed his status as a student at the Higher Institute of Advanced Studies.

Gharib expressed his happiness after the problem was solved saying that his player will now be able to concentrate on the upcoming season. He thanked Mehleb, Abdel Khalik, and the Minister of Youth and Sport, Khalid Abdelaziz, for their quick interference to solve the problem.

Salah, on the other hand, made a call to Gharib to express gratitude to his coach for standing by him in a time of crisis. The Chelsea winger also expressed thanks to the Prime Minster and two other ministers for solving his problem.

Now that is issue at home has been solved, Salah will have to concentrate on his tough competition this season, as freshly signed high-class football stars Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are set to join him at Chelsea. He will also have to compete with German star André Schürrle, who performed very well in the World Cup and won the gold with his national team, along with Brazilian Willian.

On the other hand, the left-footed winger will also have the chance to join the national team in their preparation for the upcoming African Cup of Nations in 2015.


The writer is a freelance journalist.

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