Sporting glory is ephemeral but the good deeds of sportsmen endure

Mo Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo are role models, both on and off the pitch

FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES - Image numbers 879097616 (L) and 917598122) In this composite image a comparision has been made between Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF.   Real Madrid and Liverpool meet in the UEFA Champions League Final on May 26, 2018 at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. ***LEFT IMAGE*** LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on November 25, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 10, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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On Saturday, hundreds of millions of fans from across the globe will tune in to watch Real Madrid clash with Liverpool in the final of the Uefa Champions League. Central to the spectacle will be Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Both rank among the world’s finest footballers, with 48 and 50 goals respectively to their names this season for club and country. 

But as the Egyptian forward told The National in an interview, the "final is not between Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo". What matters ultimately, he emphasised, is a "good game". Footballers, rarely out of the public eye, are either lavished with unbridled praise or upbraided mercilessly based on how they perform on the field.

But there is another side to players that generates less discussion: their engagement with the wider world beyond the field. 

Earlier this year, Salah donated $450,000 to finance a project to bring clean water to his home village of Nagrig. It was one in a series of quiet deeds, done without drawing any attention to himself.

Ronaldo, on the other hand, has deployed his celebrity to champion the rights of Palestinians. In 2012, he donated €1.5 million to charities that work with Palestinian children in Gaza. It was a courageous act carried out, once again, without self-promotion.

The “rivalry” between Salah and Ronaldo that is occupying football fans around the world obscures somewhat the civility and common purpose that unites them – and numerous other sportsmen and women – beyond the arena of play.

If they are a force to be reckoned with on the field, they are a force for immense good off of it. Their actions have particular relevance in the holy month, when giving acquires a special significance.

Salah and Ronaldo have amassed millions of fans in the course of their illustrious football careers, but what makes them such important role models is not their sporting skill alone.

For all the excitement it has generated, the outcome of Saturday’s match in Kiev will sooner or later be forgotten. But the good deeds of these two players will endure.