FIFA World Cup 2018: Mohamed Salah set for comeback in Egypt’s opener vs Uruguay
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Mohamed Salah set for comeback in Egypt’s opener vs Uruguay

For Mohamed Salah, the build-up to the FIFA World Cup 2018 hasn’t been the best after a shoulder dislocation in the Champions League. However, he has recovered from a shoulder injury and is almost 100 percent certain to play in their opener against Uruguay

football Updated: Jun 14, 2018 19:06 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
FIFA World Cup 2018,Mohamed Salah,Egypt football team
Egypt's Mohamed Salah during training ahead of their FIFA World Cup 2018 opening match against Uruguay.(REUTERS)

“If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me; if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too.” “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me; sitting in the mosque, that’s where I wanna be.”

What began as a light-hearted chant dedicated to Mohamed Salah by a group of Liverpool fans, ahead of their Champions League Round of 16 first-leg fixture against Porto in Lisbon earlier this year, has become one of the most significant songs to have emerged from a football arena. It’s impact has been felt far beyond the pitch.

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Positive impact

For the past few years, Britain has had a complicated relationship with Islam. The rise of far-right outfits like Britain First, as well as that of fringe Islamist outfits like Al-Muhajiroun, has made communal fault lines visible.

It is behind the tide of rising Islamophobia that an Egyptian footballer has emerged as the single most unifying figure in the country over the last few months.

There can be various ways of looking at Mo Salah’s impact on English football. His 44 goals for Liverpool propelled the club to the final of the Champions League and a fourth-place finish in the Premiership.

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Salah’s imperious form transformed a promising team into a formidable force in Europe last season.

But more importantly, the scrutiny on his faith, on every minute detail like him thanking the Almighty after every goal, has led to a more positive conversation on Islam in Britain after his prolific form.

This probably explains why Salah enjoys the status of a demi-god back home in Egypt, and indeed, all over the Arab world.

It has already been widely reported how his involvement in an anti-drug campaign video resulted in a manifold increase in calls to the helpline.

It was also hardly a surprise that when a few hundred Egypt fans gathered at Manezhnaya here on Wednesday evening, with many of them flying to Ekaterinburg on Thursday on the eve of their game against Uruguay, the only name loud and clear for everyone to hear was that of Mo Salah.

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The chant ‘Mo Salalalah’, an Egyptian adaptation of a Merseyside song dedicated to the player, reverberated through the area as fans partied in Moscow a day ahead of the tournament.

Cuper’s assurance

For Salah, the build-up to the World Cup hasn’t been the best after a shoulder dislocation in the Champions League final cast question marks over his World Cup participation.

He has been back in training though and Egypt coach Hector Cuper has said that Salah is almost 100% certain to play on Friday.

After failing to qualify for the last six editions of the World Cup, Egypt’s hopes on their World Cup return firmly rest on Salah.

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Having enjoyed unprecedented success at the continental level, the Egyptian fans will be expecting a strong showing in Russia this summer. Towards that end, anything but a defeat against Uruguay in Friday’s opener will be crucial given that Egypt will have Russia and Saudi Arabia to play next.

The effect of Salah’s incredible season with Liverpool has been felt across different parts of the planet. In Russia, the bearded, curly-haired forward could be the Pharaoh guiding his team past the group stages. That would be some coronation!

First Published: Jun 14, 2018 18:53 IST