Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

Mohamed Salah takes brunt of backlash from Egypt fans over Amr Warda's reinstatement

Anger on social media directed towards Liverpool forward as national side prepare for final African Cup of Nations group game with Uganda on Sunday

Mohamed Salah's role in getting Amr Warda recalled to the Egypt squad has not gone down well with some of the Egyptian public. AFP
Mohamed Salah's role in getting Amr Warda recalled to the Egypt squad has not gone down well with some of the Egyptian public. AFP

It may well be a relief for Egypt's players that they have a football match to deal with again on Sunday when their final Group A game against Uganda at the African Cup of Nations in Cairo takes place.

For 90 minutes at least the focus will be on the pitch rather then on the storm off it that the reinstatement of Amr Warda to the home nation's squad at the tournament has created.

The universal adulation the side has enjoyed from local fans has vanished, with many of their supporters using social media to denounce squad members, especially Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, for their successful campaign to reinstate Warda following his expulsion over disciplinary issues.

Warda, 25, who plays his club football in Greece, was expelled from the squad Wednesday after a Mexican woman posted online a video purporting to show the player engaging in a sexual act he sent her.

The previous day, a Dubai-based model accused Warda of using threatening language when she rejected his online advances.

The accusations brought back to public attention the allegations of harassment the player faced in Greece and Portugal, where he briefly played in 2017, and when he was thrown out and sent home when Egypt's under-23 team played a tournament in Tunisia in 2013, again over behavioural misconduct.

Led by Salah and captain Mohamed Elmohamady, members of the national squad persuaded team officials to reconsider their decision to throw Warda out and he was reinstated on Friday.

He will serve a one-match suspension and is not available for the game with Uganda, but is eligible for selection for their last-16 tie.

Salah took the lead in the team's fight against Warda's expulsion, posting a series of English-language tweets that, while asserting that women must be respected and listened to, pushed for his teammate to be given a second chance.

That, in turn, brought him the wrath of social media users now demanding an apology from the 27 year old.

Sexual harassment is rampant in Egypt. The government has recently moved to stiffen the punishment of convicted harassers and sought to further empower women, but that has had limited impact on the problem.

The Warda affair has prompted a backlash with comments abounding online about Salah, who has been a role model and a source of joy for millions of Egyptians on account of his success at Liverpool.

He became the first Egyptian to score in an Uefa Champions League final earlier in June when he scored the opening goal from the penalty spot for his side in their 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

"We are not accessories so that when you want to earn PR points you casually talk about respecting women in our society," wrote one female activist on Facebook about Salah.

"In reality, you lobby for your friend and protect him from the consequences, even if temporary, when he is found to have committed crimes punishable by a prison sentence."

A male Facebook user wrote: "From now on, I am boycotting the national squad of harassers. I hope they are defeated so that it's never said that God rewards hypocrites led by the biggest hypocrite of all, Salah."

Salah is unlikely to feature against Uganda on Sunday. Manager Javier Aguirre is likely to rest him, Elmohamady, and a number of other senior players with an eye to having them fresh for the knockout stages.

Having won their first two games they are already assured of qualification, with a draw against Uganda being all that is needed to secure top spot in the group.

Updated: June 29, 2019 07:20 PM

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