Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Mohamed Salah meets President El Sisi as Egypt's football squad prepare for Africa Cup of Nations on home soil

Star forward shook hands with the president as Egypt's national side get set for the big kick-off later this month

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah El Sisi spent Saturday afternoon with his country's football squad, including superstar striker Mohamed Salah, as the team prepares for the start of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Mr El Sisi visited the squad at the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo with Ashraf Sobhi, Minister of Youth and Sports. The president chatted with players, received a signed shirt, shook hands with Salah and offered the team some friendly advice.

Mr El Sisi urged the players to show discipline on and off the pitch but also said he recognised the weight of expectation on their shoulders. The players reportedly told the president that they fully understood the task in front of them and would do their best to keep the fans happy.

Egypt was asked to stage the tournament after the Confederation of African Football, the continent's ruling body, deemed that Cameroon’s infrastructure was not up to the required standard. This will make it the country’s fifth time hosting and they have a good track record at the event having won seven times already.

The African Cup of Nations will also mark something of a test for the country as fans have only recently been allowed to attend games again after deadly clashes between supporters and security forces at Port Said Stadium in 2012.

The incident occurred a year after divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi took office. The government banned supporters from attending matches.

Last August, a limited number of fans from each side were allowed back into stadiums as a test for further opening up the matches to supporters.

The government has said there would not be restrictions on the African Cup games, the first being between the home side and Zimbabwe on June 22, but supporters need to register for a fan ID that allows them to purchase tickets.

But while fans are allowed to attend, concern has been voiced about ticket prices.

Prominent actor Mahmoud El Bezzawy pointed out that the $12 tickets to see Egypt play would mean that for him to take his son to a game plus travel and refreshments would come out at nearer $45, or a quarter of the average Egyptian monthly wage. Salah backed El Bezzawy’s point on social media and shortly after the sports minister ordered the head of the Egyptian Football Association to drop the prices.

Off the pitch, Salah has appeared in another commercial, this time for Mobil Super engine oil.

While he often exerts grace and poise on the pitch, Salah's forays into advertising have earned him some quizzical looks.

In January, he vanished from social media only to return three days later with a three-minute odyssey fit for the archaic epics brought to you by DHL.

This time, however, his almost silent showing was better received.

Updated: June 15, 2019 10:28 PM

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