Mo Salah, EFA cross swords on social media amid calls for Egypt’s football governing body’s resignation

Mohamed Abdel Megeed
12 Min Read

Liverpool’s Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah made headlines recently after he revived a dispute with Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and accused them publicly of ignoring his complaints over several issues, mainly image rights that emerged ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Late Monday, Salah released three videos on Facebook revealing his concerns about the EFA’s performance and technique in handling the dispute. The 26-year-old Liverpool forward was upset with the governing body’s attempts to make a little of his demands, stressing that they came in favour of everyone in the national team.

“It is the whole team’s problem, not only Salah. All the players have complaints, but they never talk about them,” he said.

Salah despised the EFA’s accusations of disloyalty to his country, asserting that his patriotism is unquestionable.

Earlier on Monday, the EFA’s board member, Ahmed Megahed, held a press conference in response to Salah and his agent Ramy Abbas’s statements on Twitter, in which they claimed that the EFA disregarded their demands.

Megahed asserted that the EFA is keen on maintaining good relations with Salah as he represents a great value for the national team. However, he denied receiving any letters from Salah in the last period, adding that they received letters only from Abbas in which he used “inappropriate language,” warning that Salah would call on the EFA president and entire board of directors to hand in their resignation should they decline to respond.

The EFA’s member noted that Abbas withdrew his warning in a third letter sent on Sunday following Salah’s tweet, ruling out that Salah would agree with his agent’s behaviour. Megahed expressed his refusal to most of the demands, revealing that the EFA has sent a letter in the same day to Abbas explaining their position from Salah’s demands.

“I asked for an increased security for all players, not only for me. We had many disturbances at the team’s camp during our participation at the World Cup in Russia,” said Salah in one of three videos he released.

Salah’s remarks confirmed the circulated reports emerged during Egypt’s World Cup campaign that celebrities and public figures were allowed by the EFA to enter the team’s residence for photographs and autographs in the middle of the night.

“I did not ask for much, just to be comfortable in my room, not for anyone to knock on my hotel room and come in at anytime. That is all I have asked for. My requests are normal,” he said.

“They brought a private plane and that was good, but it was an economy class, which exhausted the players, while all the other African teams fly in business class,” Salah continued. He affirmed that the EFA has all the required financial capabilities, benefiting from sponsorship deals, to provide comfort for the players when they are on a national duty.

The EFA was criticised for choosing Grozny as the home base for Egypt’s national football team during the 2018 Russia World Cup. The total distance Egypt’s team travelled for each match during the tournament was 8,510 km, which was very exhausting for the team and affected their performance.

Earlier this year, Abbas complained about what he called the “exploitation of Salah’s image rights” by the EFA without prior permit from the player. Then, the two parties agreed to remove Salah’s pictures from all the disputed ads to meet his demands.

But Abbas sought further guarantees in the letter he sent to the EFA last week, listing seven demands.

He demanded that two security guards be present with Salah whilst he is on an international duty. Moreover, he also said no one should be allowed to ask Salah for photographs and that his client “will not be expected to be made available for any promotional appearances, interviews, meets and greets, sponsor events, official visits, VIP visits, picture sessions, or anything, by anyone on behalf of the EFA.”

In response to Salah’s videos, the EFA leaked the private letters sent by Salah’s agent Abbas in what Salah says was a violation to the law and an attempt to smear him. He also wondered why the EFA needs him to directly communicate with them.

“Naturally, the player’s agent is the one who communicates with you,” Salah explained, referring to the fact that football players do not have time outside their training and professional duties to communicate directly on administrative matters.

“The agent is not a third party—he is the agent of Mohamed Salah…he needs to be treated like you treat me, it does not matter if he is Colombian or whatever,” said Salah, slamming statements by the EFA that the agent is ‘a foreigner’ who disrespects Egypt.

Sponsors’ struggle over Salah

The crisis erupted basically late March between Abbas and the EFA, after Salah starred in a television advertisement for a telecommunications company other than the one sponsoring the EFA. The company threatened to seek compensations from the EFA for this incident.

The problem lies in determining the side that owns the sponsorship rights of Salah and who has the right to permit the player to participate in advertising campaigns? Do the rights of the sponsoring company of the EFA conflict with the rights of the other companies sponsoring Salah?

FIFA has clear rules that regulate sponsorship contracts of players, for which all parties should be committed. The crisis escalated sharply after Abbas referred via Twitter to a “big problem” facing Salah with the EFA without giving any details.

The dispute started when the EFA revealed the private plane that will be allocated to transport the national team to its training camps outside Egypt. The plane was already used to transport the team to Switzerland where Egypt played against Portugal and Greece in preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The plane bears the photo of Salah wearing the national team kit next to slogans of the companies contracting with the sponsor of the EFA. This incident was rejected by Abbas, especially, that those companies compete the other sponsors of the player.

Sources revealed that Hany Abu Rida, head of the EFA, had then a friendly meeting with Salah during the training camp of Egypt held in Switzerland, during which he asked the Liverpool star to sign some kits of the national teams for promotional sake and take a photo session for one of the sponsoring companies of the EFA, in addition to making a short TV interview with one of the channels belonging to the sponsors. Salah showed no sign of objection at all.

The EFA denied any disputes with the player, adding that the association has nothing to do with the statements of non-Egyptian Abbas who does not know the deep relation between Salah and the Egyptian people in general and the EFA in particular.

Salah also starred in an advertisement as part of an anti-drug campaign titled “You are Stronger than Drugs”, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA). However, the player’s agent objected the use of this advertising clip by the sponsoring company of the EFA in two other advertisements, which was denied by the sponsoring company of the EFA.

Salah’s videos stirred anger of his football fans in Egypt, which brought the governing body of Egyptian football under fire for mistreating the brilliant player.

The Arabic hashtag “Resignation” was widely used on Twitter, with hundreds of thousands of fans declaring their unwavering support for the player against the EFA, asking its board to step down. Many of the tweets touched on politics, making references to widespread corruption and inefficiency.

Salah is due to be back in action under Egypt’s new coach, Javier Aguirre, in September, in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Niger.

Salah is a milestone player in the Egyptian team and contributed to its qualification to the World Cup. The Egyptian international footballer also wrote history in the English Premier League, as he became one of the top 10 valuable players in the world, according to Transfermarkt.

Salah ranked fourth, with a market value of €150m, equalling the 2018 World Cup winner Kélien Mbappé, who plays with Paris Saint-Germain. Salah was followed by Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Harry Kane and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, who came in the fifth and sixth places, respectively, with the same market value.

Salah scored 32 goals last season, surpassing Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Luis Suarez, who share the record of 31 gaols for a 38-game season.

Salah secured the Premier League Golden Boot for the 2017/2018 season after Tottenham Hotspur’s star Harry Kane stopped at the 30 mark. The Egyptian international has been on fire last season, presenting his best career performance in the English Premier League.

He won the PFA Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards. Salah also won the EA SPORTS Premier League Player of the month award for April. It is the third time that the Egyptian winger gained that trophy after winning it in February and last November.

The Egyptian also became the first African to breach the 30-goal mark in a single campaign, and the only man to win three EA SPORTS Player of the Month awards in the same season.

Salah joined Liverpool in a club-record €42m transfer deal from AS Roma last June. He managed to break several records in his debut season, which contributed to massively increasing his market value.

He signed last month a new five-year contract with the Premier League team until 2023 and doubled his wage to around £200,000 a week.

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