The latest chant from Liverpool fans jubilant about their historic European Champions League run is a validation of the extraordinary contribution to the club’s success by an exceptionally down-to-earth Muslim player
Who could have imagined at the start of this year’s Premier League football season in England that come May, an Egyptian footballer from very humble beginnings would have taken the world by storm, breaking a host of records along the way? But that is exactly what has happened, with plenty more to come.
Back in August 2017 when the English football season was starting, many fans were sceptical of how Mohamed ‘Mo’ Salah, Liverpool FC’s then record signing for a fee of 50 million Dollars, would fare. Mismanaged under José Mourinho at Chelsea and only showing sparks of brilliance at AS Roma, Liverpool fans were wary of what he could achieve at Anfield.
A remarkable season of records and triumphs
But how he proved his doubters wrong. Salah has had arguably the best debut season of any player in the history of the club. Some of the highlights of his explosive debut season include: scoring the most ever goals (32) in a 38-game FA Premier League season; winning the FA Premier League Golden Boot for scoring the most goals this season (despite being a winger and not an out-and-out striker); being voted the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) and Football Writers Association (FWA) Player of the Year as well as the Liverpool Football Club, EA Sports, and FA Premier League Footballer of the Season, and of course winning the PFA Fan’s Player of the Year award
He also won the Confederation of African Football and BBC African Footballer of the year and is a contender for the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual prize in world football
On top of all this, he has pretty much single-handedly assured Egypt of their first appearance in a World Cup finals since Italia ‘90 with a miraculous performance in their final qualifying game.
And if that was not enough he won a boatload of votes in Egypt’s presidential election, with some reports stating that it numbered more than a million (by dint of spoilt ballot papers in which people wrote his name and sketched a picture of a football beside it) - coming second only to the president himself.
He even managed to get a fatwa extolling his virtues from a popular Islamic scholar in the UK.
At the age of 25, he has proved himself as a worthy successor to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and is already rivalling their popularity.
“I just want to play football”
His footballing achievements are famous, but what sets him apart is his striking humility in a profession bloated with cash and egos that is better known for feeding vice than it is for enabling acts of self-sacrifice and compassion.
But not Salah. He simply wants to get on with the game and win for the team. “I don’t have tattoos, I don’t change hairstyles, I don’t know how to dance. I just want to play football,” is one of his most notable quotes of the season, and that is exactly what he has done, winning the hearts and minds of countless fans around the world in the process.
Moreover, he has anonymously donated huge amounts of money to charities and hospitals on the quiet and is very keen on donating his shirts and boots to young fans after most matches.
An observant Muslim, Salah has succeeded in displaying the very best example of his faith. While he may not be winning converts (although there are reports of quite a few people embracing Islam as a result of his success) a huge number of fans have developed a great respect for the religion as a result of their love for one of its adherents.
This is a man who celebrates scoring a goal with a simple prostration of thanks to his God, who, out of respect and gratitude, refuses to celebrate when he plays against a former team, and who even apologises to goalkeepers for the embarrassment they face when he scores a large number of goals against them.
It is no surprise then that in a packed pub in the city of Rome earlier this month, just before the semi-final of the European Champions League that would see Liverpool progress to their first final for 12 years, non-Muslim Liverpool fans were chanting the following:
“Mohamed Salah, a gift from Allah.
He came from Roma, to Liverpool.
He’s always scoring, it’s almost boring.
So please don’t take Mohamed away.”
The video of this went viral, and for good reason: with his dedication, diligence, selflessness and sincerity, Salah had succeeded in winning the love of the fans of arguably the finest football club in the history of the game. Years of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment was of no consequence today; Mo was one of their own.
So what does this weekend’s Champions League final versus the legendary Real Madrid hold in store for Mo?
The spectacle of Salah celebrating a goal at the world’s most prestigious club cup-final with his trademark sajdah in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan would be a unique event in the history of sport and something special for Muslims all over the world.
Millions of fans will be on edge to see how he performs in what could well be the biggest game of his career. But we know one thing for sure: faith was what drove the humble boy of very modest means from the village of Nagrig in Egypt to silence his doubters and reach the very highest stage in world football. He is somebody that has never compromised on his faith, and his faith is what has guided his success.
It will not let him down now.
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