Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Mohamed Salah speaks out about Egyptian FA and women's rights in Middle East

The Liverpool star commented on the Amr Wahda incident during the Africa Cup of Nations

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah poses with the trophy after Liverpool won the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between FC Liverpool and FC Chelsea at Besiktas Park Stadium in Istanbul on August 14, 2019. / AFP / OZAN KOSE
Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah poses with the trophy after Liverpool won the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between FC Liverpool and FC Chelsea at Besiktas Park Stadium in Istanbul on August 14, 2019. / AFP / OZAN KOSE

Mohamed Salah has revealed the difficulties he endured while representing Egypt during this summer's Africa Cup of Nations, but gave no suggestion that he plans to walk away from the national team.

The Liverpool star, whose relationship with the Egyptian Football Association has been strained over the past few years, told CNN of the tension in the camp as the host nation were eliminated at the last-16 stage by South Africa, leading to manager Javier Aguirre losing his job and EFA president Hany Abo Rida resigning.

"We didn’t perform at the top level – I’m not just talking about as players but as a team, but there was a lot of pressure," he said. "For the players in the national team, they were not happy about a lot of things."

Salah said he feels as though his country's football association are "in a competition" with him, but that he doesn't expect special treatment because of his status as the leading Arab footballer.

"My position is a little bit different to the other players, not because I am a star but to make me comfortable. For example, at the African Nations, when we went in the hotel, people came to the hotel very easily, they sat downstairs very easily, which is not normal. We had one day off and I couldn’t go down from the room until 9.30pm – when I tried to go down there were 200 people.

"They say why are you complaining? I complain because I am a human being and I want to be with the players."

When asked about the possibility of retiring from international duty, the 27-year-old made clear what it means to play for his country.

"It’s so difficult. I love this country from my heart. It is always in my mind, from when I left Egypt at 19 years old, something pushed me forward to perform good, to be iconic for the kids, for the kids to dream one day to be like me – it was in my mind," he said. "I want to be that person. So, to retire from the national team is something huge for me inside."

Amid Egypt's failed attempt to win the Cup of Nations on home turf was the controversy involving Salah's teammate Amr Wahda.

The midfielder was expelled from the squad over allegations of sexual harassment from a Dubai-based Egyptian model before being reinstated over what was reported as a players' revolt.

Salah was at the centre of the media story surrounding Wahda's reinstatement, having tweeted that "many who make mistakes can change for the better and shouldn't be sent to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out."

His comments led to scathing criticism from fans and parts of the media.

However, Salah denied that his intervention had Wahda reinstated to the squad.

"Absolutely not because I am not the national team captain and am not the team manager or coach. If I was that powerful I could have changed a lot of things there. I am a player but they just put it on me," he said.

He feels that his tweets were misconstrued.

"What I meant by the tweet is, that [sexual harassment] happened before and is happening now. He has to get a treatment and rehabilitation to make sure it is not going to happen again. I mean not someone in particular, but in general," he said.

"The people misunderstand what I am saying. Women have to have their rights in the Middle East. First we have to accept that there is a problem – and that is very difficult to accept as the problem is running deep.

"Second, the woman has the right to talk about anything. When my daughter has a problem, she has to feel support from me, to come to me to talk about the problem. The most important thing is the fear of the wife, the fear from her husband, from her father. The fear is not healthy for anyone, so we have to face that."

Salah then explained how he has changed from someone just discussing these issues nine or 10 years ago to "that person now who is fighting the subject and can see that it is very wrong".

Updated: August 21, 2019 01:23 PM

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