Drinking Issues

Something unusual happened in two of Egypt's matches in the World Cup. Moahmed El Shenawy won the man of the match award for his performance against Uruguay and Mohamed Salah won the same award after the match against Saudi Arabia. Even though it might be a prestigous title by some how, both refused to take the trophy of this title.

It wasn't a protest against FIFA or anger due to the results. El Shenawy and Salah refused to take the trophy that is sponsored by Budweiser. As Muslims, they didn't want to be connected to something that is forbidden in their religion like drinking alcohol.

This kind of controversy is not the first that was connected to Anheuser-Busch, a brewing company that is sponsoring the World Cup since 1986.

World Cup sponsorship is an interesting business. FIFA sponsorship profit in 2014 World Cup was about 1.6 billion dollars. It gives a chance for companies to get exposure in one of the worldwide main events and being advertised in every World Cup event. One of the biggest advantages is the fact that these companies get an absolute monopoly on the field. For example, if you want to buy something to drink in the stadium and you want to pay with a credit card, you can only do it with Visa credit card, as they are World Cup sponsors.

Anheuser-Busch, a Belgian-Brazilian brewing company, is sponsoring the World Cup for more than 30 years. Although their leading brand is Budweiser, the only World Cup they missed since 1986 was the World Cup that took place in United States in 1994. As a leading sponsors, they are the only company that its beers are allowed to be sold inside the stadium. The connection between FIFA and Anheuser-Busch is so strong, that FIFA decided in January 2011 to extend the agreement with the company until 2022.

Sometimes this agreement can cause political problems. In 2012, the Brazilian parliament approved a bill that will allow selling beer in stadiums during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. In Brazil it became popular to mock this decision, named it "Budweiser Bill". Maybe in order to make this decision more acceptable, another beer brand has been sold in the stadiums during the games, the local brand Brahma, which is unsurprisingly also part of  Anheuser-Busch's brands.

FIFA is not the only one that facing problems with beer brands. During Euro 2016, Carlsberg made a rebranding due to a law in France that forbids alcohol advertising. Someone in the Danish brand thought about a creative way in order to keep their place, as their commercials used part of their slogan without mentioning the brand name.

A clash between the rules and sponsorhip can cause some weird situations. In last March, after another MLS match, Vancouver Whitecaps fans got a chance to vote for their MVP, sponsored once again by Budweiser. To their surprise, the winning goal scorer, Alphonso Davis, wasn't even nominated. Later on, the team said that 17-years-old Davies can't be nominated because he is younger than the legal drinking age.

The future of the football will be more dependent on the sponsors. In the case of the Egyptian players, FIFA decided to remove Budweiser logos from the official publictaions. FIFA did it also when players from Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal won the title. These incidents are rising a question about the limit of the tensions between political or cultural issues and the sponsors' products. The next World Cup will be in a country that forbids selling alcohol, until then we will have to wait to the moment that it will be clear which of these sides will be more dominant.

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The Salah Enigma

"Will he play?” 

- "Inchallah he will"

“Salah is playing?" 

-“Mashallah, he'll play."

"It's his birthday, I wish he'd play!"

These sentences were filling the air of the Demodedovo Airport in Moscow on Thursday night. 

Will he play? Egyptian fans at the Demodedovo Airport (Photo: Uri Levy)

Will he play? Egyptian fans at the Demodedovo Airport (Photo: Uri Levy)

Thousands of Egyptian fans were heading east, to Ekaterinburg, a city in the heart of the Ural Mountains. No one slept on these flights. Egyptian and Uruguayan fans celebrated with great singing, affectionately teasing each other, creating a unique atmosphere that only a World Cup could produce. 

Around 15,000 Egyptian fans roamed the outskirts of the stadium hours before the opening whistle and greeted each other with Eid Mubarak blessing, on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr and the end of the Ramadan month.

"I do not want him (Salah) to play the whole game, just give us 10 minutes and he'll be good," says Osama, an Egyptian fan who landed that day straight from Cairo via Moscow. 

The days before the opening whistle were filled with news of the odds of whether Salah will play or not, but as expected, the Egyptian star opened on the bench.

"Let him play for only 10 minutes". Osama, Egypt's fan, before the match (Photo: Uri Levy)

"Let him play for only 10 minutes". Osama, Egypt's fan, before the match (Photo: Uri Levy)

It was clear that the Egyptians were excited by the status, but in the absence of their star, it seemed that each player was attached to the typical game of their coach - Hector Cúper of Argentina. Abdullah Said and Ahmed Hegazi were anchors on both sides of the field, which led to an organised standstill, tight marking and a stubborn defending of positions. After a colourful start and two huge misses by Luis Suarez (who had a very bad day), the Egyptians woke up and began to hold on to the ball, feel good, and even threatened the goal.

The half ended at 0:0, but it was an excellent half by Egypt. Maybe their best half in the past two years. The Egyptians managed to hold without Salah for 45 minutes against a team that was better than them in every position on the field. Cúper’s players have done their best. Still, every time the camera went to Salah on the bench, the audience forgot what was happening on the pitch and applauded their hero.

The second half continued with the same pattern. Everyone was waiting for Salah to enter on the 60th minute. The crowd began to call his name. The first substitute was Tarek Hamed who was injured and Sam Morsy took his place. Egypt was still strong and the singing of thousands of Egyptians echoed in the stadium. The feeling was that this nervous game would still provide a dramatic and historic moment.

Second substitute. Mahmoud Kahraba entered instead of Marwan Mohsen. The Egyptian journalists at the Press tribune caught their heads and asked “Why not Salah”?

Meanwhile Egypt became more dominant as the game progressed. Fathi with a great lob almost founded Abdalla Said but the Celesete defence stopped him. 

Another sub - Ramadan Sobhi went up for Amr Warda. The sensed disappointment in the crowd was imminent. From that moment, Uruguay was unleashed.

A free kick by Edinson Cavani went straight to the post, and then, a minute later, it happened. 

In the 89th minute Carlos Sanchez, who entered only 20 minutes earlier, picked up an accurate lob to Jose Gimenez, who scored a winning header. A goal exactly typical of the fighting and determined spirit of Uruguay - La Garra Charua

For Egyptians it was a cruel result in the way the game developed. But this is also not a terrible result. Egypt gave a decent fight to an excellent world-class team. Cúper only mistake was the last sub. It’s either to put in Salah for ten minutes, or to keep the rivals irritated by the thought that he will come in. It was precisely when there was room to put him in to give a small bite that without him they simply couldn’t.  Now, the Russia game is like a final for Egypt. Their most important game ever.

At the end of the game BabaGol asked the assistant coach of the Egyptian team, Gustavo why Mohammed Salah did not play. This was the scene:

Salah, who "celebrated" his 26th birthday that day, left the stadium on a side door, just like Mohammed El-Neny. In the game against Russia Hector Cúper will have to put in his star. 

When I left the stadium towards downtown Ekaterinburg, a thought broke to my mind. 

Maybe it's all a show, and Salah is not fit at all to play in the World Cup and it is one big presentation in order not to lose public support? There are things that probably only happen in Russia. Or Egypt.

Salah Records: All the Awards of Egypt's star

Liverpool Egyptian star, Mohamed Salah, has broken the Premier League record for goals scored in a 38-game season. 

The ‘Pharaoh’ now has 32 goals in 36 games with his strike against Brighton on the last matchday breaking the record set by Alan Shearer in 1995-96 and matched by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08 and Luis Suarez in 2013-14. Andy Cole and Shearer scored 34 goals each, in 1993-94 and 1994-95 respectively, when the Premier League season was 42 games long, before the deduction to 38 games for a campaign. 

Earlier this season, Salah have succeeded Didier Drogba as the best African scorer in English Premier League history, as well as already been named as the top Arab scorer ever to play in England. 

With this goal, Salah ended Harry Kane's two-season run as the Premier League's top scorer. Kane was aiming to become the second player, after Alan Shearer, to win the prize three seasons in a row, but a young winger from Nagrig, Egypt has spoiled his wish. 

Salah returned the English football last summer in a deal worth around £37million, having been sold by Chelsea 12 months previous after 19 underwhelming games and two successful loans spells with Fiorentina and Roma. At his arrival, many commentators underrated him as ‘not prepared for the Premier League’, or ‘too expensive for not a top class player’. He proved all of them wrong, while winning multiple individual awards and helping Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League final for the first time after more than a decade. The prizes’ list Salah has won this season is unbelievable:

Liverpool Player of the Month (7 times)
Premier League Player of the Month (3) 
Players' Association Player of the Month (4)
Champions League Player of the Week (3)
The Players' Player of the Year
Football Writers' Player of the Year
Liverpool’s Player of the Year
Liverpool Players’ Player of the Year
Arab player of the year
CAF Player of the Year
Selected for CAF Team of the Year
BBC’s African Player of the Year
Premier League Top Scorer
Premier League Player of the Season

All in all, the Egyptian exploded this season with direct involvement in 59 goals, and won  29 personal titles. These are numbers who are familiar with the biggest names in world football: Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Egyptian now has 45 goals across all competitions this season, following short of Ian Rush's record return of 47 - in 65 games - set in 1983-84. Salah has 1 game left to try and break the record in this historical and mind-blowing season - the Champions League that will take place in Kyiv on May 26th. Can the Nile Magician set yet another benchmark for Liverpool football club? 

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