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Egyptians lash out at Mohamed Salah for leaving Africa Cup mid-tournament

Soccer is a national obsession for Egyptians, and star Mohamed Salah leaving the Africa Cup of Nations for treatment of an injury in England has drawn a wave of controversy.
Liverpool's Egyptian striker #11 Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on December 20, 2023. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No vi

Liverpool and Egypt soccer star Mohamed Salah has come under a wave of criticism over his decision to leave the Egyptian team at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) to receive treatment for an injury in England.

Salah sustained a hamstring injury just before the end of the first half of Egypt's game against Ghana at AFCON 2023 last Thursday and was forced to leave the match.

Following tests and communication between the medical teams of the Egyptian national team and Liverpool FC, the Egyptian Football Association announced on Sunday that Salah will travel to England to complete his treatment after watching the game between Egypt and Cape Verde on Monday.

“We are hoping to catch him in the semifinals of the Africa Nations Cup in case of qualification,” the association added in a statement.

Egypt will play against Cape Verde on Monday at 10 p.m. local time in the final round of the group stage. If it wins the match, Egypt's national soccer team, nicknamed the “Pharaohs,” will advance to Round 16.

Egypt has won the cup seven times since AFCON began in 1957, more than any other nation in Africa. This year’s biennial tournament began Jan. 13 in Ivory Coast.

Angry fans

Salah leaving mid-tournament has raised controversy among Egyptians, including fans, former players and media figures. Many accuse him of abandoning his teammates ahead of a fateful game.

Egyptian former soccer player Ahmed “Mido” Hossam said in a post on X Sunday that Salah leaving his teammates mid-game “was not appropriate” and shows that he only thinks about his own interests.  

In another post on the social media platform on Monday, Mido expressed his support for the national team.

“I ask the Egyptian media not to talk about Salah today before the important match for our team. The rest of the players deserve our respect,” he added.

Hany Ramzy, who also played for Egypt’s national team, slammed the decision to remove Salah at this time.

“The timing of Salah’s departure from the camp is shocking,” Ramzy told Egypt's DMC TV station on Sunday. “It’s possible that his club [Liverpool FC] put him under pressure but it was crucial for him to be there for his teammates.”

Sports writer Talha Ahmed believes Salah, the team’s captain, should have remained alongside his teammates for moral support during AFCON.

Sports presenter Ibrahim Fayek said during his program on the ONTime Sports Sunday that Salah should have stayed to support his team.

“Is Mohamed Salah’s injury so serious that the captain of the Egyptian national team would leave the team’s mission and go to Liverpool?” he wondered.

Some social media users criticized Salah’s move to leave his team, saying he won't be welcomed back if the Pharaohs make it to the finals.

Many, however, defended Salah’s decision to rest and get treatment, wishing him a speedy recovery.

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in Egypt. Salah rose to stardom and became a national symbol for Egyptians after he joined Liverpool FC in 2017.

Speaking at a press conference in Ivory Coast on Sunday — hours before his departure was announced — Salah responded to criticism of his performance in the two games his team had already played at AFCON.

“I’m not here to play individually but as part of the team,” he said, adding, “This is the Egypt national team, not Salah’s team. I’m a player among the others on the squad.”