Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has been named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year for 2017/18.
The Egyptian becomes the first African to be given the award, that is joining the PFA Player of the Year Award that he grabbed just last week. BabaGol readers, were already aware of Salah explosiveness back in 2017, when we chose him here as BabaGol's Player of the Year in our annual summary and in Uri's famous prediction for the win-win "Egyptian-Scouser Wedding" that have been signed between the sides last summer.
Though, not everything is perfect in the Egyptian star year. Surprisingly the troubles are coming from his own country.
In the past week, Salah faced a major dispute with the Egyptian Football Association only a month and a half before the World Cup in Russia. A disagreement on an advertising issue has been the main talk in Egyptian football in the past two days. So how come a country’s FA can mis-treat its number one football star days before its most important moment in decades? The answer is complex, especially if you consider the story’s context.
Mohamed Salah is having an extraordinary season. The Egyptian star is enjoying a terrific scoring rate, as he accomplished 43 goals for Liverpool in 48 matches in all competitions, positioning himself as a worldwide football megastar. Salah also was in charge of Egypt’s World Cup qualification for the first time in 28 years, when he scored a brace in his country’s decisive match against Congo Brazzaville last November. In addition, Salah has donated to multiple charity purposes and also launched an anti-drugs campaign among Egyptian youth. If until 2017 Salah was Egypt’s best player, in 2018 he turned in to an International Arab Icon and he is admired by millions all over the world, who makes an important a cultural impact.
His positive character on the pitch, his relationship with the fans and the fact that he is socially involved with those in need, is helping deducting Islamophobia among European football fans, and in general. Up to this day, five Liverpool fans have been, reportedly, converted to Islam after watching the Pharaoh plying his trade at Anfield.
But not all is perfect in Salah’s year. In the past a week a dispute between the player representatives and the Egyptian Football Association has erupted, discussing the issue of the use right of Salah’s image.
Few months back, the Egyptian FA have launched a branded airplane for the World Cup, using the national team players’ images, with Salah being one of them.
The plane is planned to be used by the team in their trip to Russia this summer, as well for the internal flights during the World Cup tournament.
Salah has a sponsorship deal with telecoms firm Vodafone. The problem aroused when it was discovered that rival company "We", the official sponsor of the Egyptian national team, was the one who provided the jet to the team & FA, with their logo well presented on it.
Salah’s representative, Ramy Abbas Issa, have expressed his client’s unrest from the situation. From sources around the player, it was explained that due to Salah’s agreement with Vodafone, in such case of endorsing a different Telekom company - the player would be fined with 5 million Egyptian pounds.
Abbas Issa has called the FA multiple times since the PR photos of the plane were published in the internet, but got no response. From this point, Abbas Issa and Salah himself, were expressing their unsatisfied opinion about the issue publicly, on social media. This had a major effect on the Egyptian fans, media and even politicians, who have decided to support the player at his argument with the FA. This made a change in the FA’s stance.
On a late Sunday night the FA have declared that they will take up on any fines or expenses caused to the player by this situation, and the player himself have tweeted that the solution might be close.
Despite the mass public support and the unprofessional treatment by the FA to their main star person in the team, in legal terms, Salah does not have a clear case on the issue. In manners of players brand rights, there is no rule that limiting the clubs or the FA’s using their players images, even if they are committed to different sponsors. This way Lionel Messi is an Adidas athlete, while Barcelona are ‘adopted’ by Nike. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the same situation in just the opposite way.
Time will tell whether this crisis between Egypt’s FA and its big star is over, or that in the month and a half before the tournament the saga will continue. One thing is sure: There's an entire nation that count on Salah to carry them on in Russia this summer. With, or without, his image on the plane.
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