Mixing sports and politics always leads to bad results, and Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah is no exception. After refusing to shake hands with Maccabi Tel-Aviv players during the first leg of the Champions League qualifiers between the Israeli club and FC Basel, he has been forced by his team to play in the second leg, leading to more unintelligent remarks from the player.
It’s hard to say if Salah actually believes all the nonsense coming out of his mouth or is this just an act, to show his “supporters” in Egypt and the Arab world in general that he hates Israel or anything that has to do with Zionism.
In the first match, he didn’t refuse to shake hands with the Maccabi Tel-Aviv players (8 of them Israeli, one of them an Arab, Maharan Radi) before the match began, faking some issue with his shoe on the sidelines. He played well during the match, as Basel left disappointed with a tricky 1-0, giving them plenty of worries heading into the second leg.
From the moment Basel were drawn with the Israeli champions Salah began getting bombarded on Facebook and through other media outlets by “fans” in Egypt and around the world to not play in Israel or at all against the Israeli side. Salah immediately declared he wasn’t going to play in Israel, but things changed once the people who pay his salary told him, behind closed doors, that his political agenda and nationality doesn’t really mean a thing to them, and he has a job to do.
Salah isn’t the only Egyptian playing for Basel. Mohamed Elneny also played in the match for 77 minutes, but he has been a lot quieter on all fronts when compared with Salah, the more outspoken and famous of the two.
Basel have plenty of problems without Salah dragging them into murky political waters, and a tough away match with only one goal advantage means they can’t give up on anyone, especially not a key player like Salah. If they would have won 3-0 or 4-0, things would have been different. But Salah is preparing himself to the Israel experience by saying more things that will obviously turn the crowd against him, and show just how much he’s trying to pamper to those with the more extreme views.
I will fly to Israel , Football is more important than politics and it is my job. In my thoughts I am going to play in Palestine and not Israel and I am also going to score and win there. The Zionist flag won’t be shown in the Champions League.
Maybe he forgot to to look at some Champions League history, and be enlightened by the fact that Israeli clubs have appeared four times in the Champions League group stage over the last 10 years. But Salah doesn’t strike us at the most knowledgeable of players. Talented? For sure. But for making himself available to the Anti-Israel propaganda devouring too many sane voices in the Middle Eastern conflict, Salah put himself, unlike his club, which has been all business like in this affair, under the spotlight in a very ugly way.