NICOLAS ASFOURI/Getty Images
Mohamed Salah is reportedly considering quitting the Egypt national team because of his involvement with Chechnya during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Egypt team have been based in Chechnya, and the Liverpool star was pictured with leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who subsequently made the Egyptian an “honorary citizen” of the Chechen Republic.
CNN’s John Sinnott and Alireza Hajihosseini report that Salah “feels exposed” by the events and does not want to be used for political gain.
Salah has emerged as one of the brightest stars in European football after a prolific season for Liverpool. He scored 43 goals in all competitions and helped the team to the final of the UEFA Champions League.
The forward is Egypt’s star player although he missed their opening World Cup game against Uruguay due to a shoulder problem picked up against Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
During the competition. Salah met Kadyrov and was made an honorary citizen of Chechnya, as shown by Russia correspondent Alec Luhn:
Alec Luhn @ASLuhn
Just Kadyrov declaring Mo Salah an honorary citizen of Chechnya. You’d think you’d at least read the Wikipedia entry on a place before taking citizenship…or maybe he just doesn’t care https://t.co/WLvwbpMOJb https://t.co/UAvl7uHwqn
Sports editor Karim Zidan explained Kadyrov’s motives:
Karim Zidan @ZidanSports
To make it clear, Kadyrov’s only interest in in Salah, not the entire Egyptian team. Being pictured alongside Salah makes him appears to be friends with one of the most popular Muslim athletes in the world. Look at where Salah is seated in comparison to his teammates #WorldCup https://t.co/XPM3q3HhRp
Kadyrov has been in charge of Chechnya since 2007 but has been accused of human rights violations, per Sky Sports News.
The Chechen leader denied using Salah for political reasons, per Steve Rosenberg at BBC News:
Steve Rosenberg @BBCSteveR
After his public appearance with Mo Salah In Grozny, I ask Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov: “Your critics say you used Mo Salah for political propaganda. Did you?” He replies: “I didn’t invite Mo Salah, or the Egypt team. They chose us themselves.” https://t.co/IwsqfDl5rl
Luhn felt Salah has been let down by people around him:
Alec Luhn @ASLuhn
How could Mo Salah’s people let him keep doing these damaging photo ops with human rights offender Ramzan Kadyrov, you wonder. Then you check out his agent’s Twitter: “Political correctness is for morons” https://t.co/hYKhPEmIZG
Salah played in Egypt’s second World Cup game of the tournament, which saw them knocked out after a 3-1 defeat to hosts Russia.
The Liverpool star is also expected to start in their final group game Monday when the Pharaohs face Saudi Arabia.
After the game, Salah will be able to return home and enjoy a break from football before he is due to return to Liverpool for pre-season training.
The forward will have time to seriously consider his international future after the World Cup and decide if he wants to bring it to a premature end.