Mo Salah under fire in his native Egypt for not publicly supporting the Palestinians

Critics on social media say the Liverpool and Egypt star is not worthy of the title 'Pride of the Arabs'

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 05:  Mo Salah of Liverpool looks on during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium on April 05, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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Egyptians and other Arabs have been left angered by the killing of thousands of Palestinians in Israel's bombardment of Gaza, but have been directing some of their frustration to an unlikely individual; Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah.

Salah has not publicly expressed his support for the Palestinians or offered his condolences to the families of victims of the Israeli onslaught.

"But may God not forgive you if you are just not interested," wrote Nickolas Khoury on X, formerly known as twitter, after he explained that the winger may not have spoken against Israel because of business and club considerations.

Salah, who has not publicly commented on the criticism – although he has not tweeted since September 26 – has for years enjoyed the affection and adulation of most if not all of Egypt's 105 million people who see in him a role model for the nation's youths and a football icon with star power.

His rise to global stardom from his humble background as a member of a lower middle class family in a Nile Delta village north of Cairo has inspired millions across the Middle East and the world.

Criticism of Salah in his native Egypt has been rare and has in the past mostly focused on what some see as his cautious play because of fears of injury when on international duty for the Pharaohs.

However, the scathing criticism he has been subjected to in recent days speaks equally of the deep empathy Egyptians feel for the Palestinians and their frustration that a man with so much star power like Salah may have prioritised his club and business interests ahead of everything else.

But it's much more serious to others.

In a region where for more than 70 years the Palestinians are held dear in the heart of almost everyone and the creation of their own nation is a dream, Salah's failure to publicly support the cause at a time of untold suffering borders on treason or betrayal.

What made it worse for Salah, who has multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with global giants like Pepsi, Adidas and Vodaphone, is that footballers in his native Egypt and elsewhere like Arsenal's Mohamed ElNenni and Riyad Mahrez of the Saudi Pro League side Al Ahli, have publicly supported the Palestinians.

"Pride of the Arabs is a title won only by positions and conduct," wrote Nahla Shahin on X, alluding to the nickname given to Salah by Arab fans and sports commentators. "Pride of the Arabs means being a role model."

"Your are the pride of cats," wrote another, mockingly alluding to Salah's frequent social media posts in support of animal rights.

Another social media user, Thamer Sawalha, delivered a harsh and humourless message to the 31-year-old winger. "History only recognises real men. You, Salah, have lost much," he wrote.

Media celebrities like popular talk show host Amr Adeeb of the Saudi-owned network MBC was notably less critical of Salah but his counsel to him was crystal clear: Do it!

"Everyone sees you as the Pride of the Arabs and to be the Pride of the Arabs you must not abandon the Arabs when they need you the most," Mr Adeeb said in a segment of the Friday episode of his widely viewed programme Al Hekayah, or The Story.

"There is still time. To arrive late is better than not to arrive at all," he told the player. "This is the time to speak up...I know you will not hesitate. Don't be afraid, we are all behind you and your talent and abilities will enable you to get through this."

To those who have harshly criticised Salah, Mr Adeeb had this to say: "Go a little easy on him."

Updated: October 15, 2023, 4:58 AM