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Mohamed Salah criticised for support of team-mate dropped – then reinstated – by Egypt

Mohamed Salah has been criticised as “clearly wrong” in his support of Egypt team-mate Amr Warda, after he was dropped for alleged sexual harassment.

Warda was sent home from the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday after the release of social media exchanges between the PAOK midfielder and several women.

One of those was British-Egyptian model Merhan Keller, who shared screenshots of WhatsApp conversations with the 25-year-old which the Independent described as “lewd, inappropriate and occasionally aggressive.”

In response, Salah took to Twitter to issue a statement of support for his compatriot, although stressing that “women must be treated with the utmost respect” and that “‘no’ means ‘no'”:

This follows an interview with TIME magazine in April, after being named in their list of the 100 most influential people of 2019, in which he advocated change in the treatment of women.

“I support the woman more than I did before, because I feel like she deserves more than what they give her now, at the moment,” he explained.

Salah referenced attitudes towards women “in my culture and in the Middle East” and insisted change is “not optional.”

However, in the wake of his support of Warda, the Liverpool forward has been criticised by a number of journalists and members of the media in his native Egypt and abroad.

Many noted how this would not, in fact, be Warda’s “second chance,” with Portuguese publication Record reporting in 2017 that a loan spell with Feirense would be cut short after he “harassed the wives of two team-mates”:

Furthermore, Keller herself spoke to the Mirror this weekend claiming she would be “in jeopardy” if she returned to Egypt from her home in Dubai, as “people will attack me in the streets” because Salah “is God and he can do no wrong.”

“I understand the human side of it, that it is his team-mate and he is trying to take his side and he is trying to support him,” she said.

“But my concern here is that you can do that on a private level.

“You can go to him and tell him that he made a mistake, ‘make sure you don’t do that again, I would advise you to make a public apology and just focus on yourself and your career and let’s just get through this’.

“You know what he has done, so the fact that he is still siding with him is really, really painful.”

Keller added: “I am not trying to take him down or sabotage [Salah], because this is the accusation that I get from a lot of people. I think it is important to highlight that.”

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - Sunday, June 17, 2018: Egypt's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first goal from a penalty kick during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group A match between Russia and Egypt at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Her comments are certainly rational, and on face value it appears Salah’s stance—though well-intentioned with a leaning towards rehabilitation, rather than expulsion—is misguided.

“He was trying to be statesmanlike but ended up equivocating and, by extension, endorsing,” the Guardian‘s Nick Ames wrote on Sunday.

“Salah’s intervention was clumsy rather than malign; then again, it is about time that was eliminated from any form of discourse as a valid excuse.”

This only serves to cloud a tournament in Salah’s home country that should see him further cement his status as one of world football’s best players—having scored in the 2-0 victory over DR Congo on Wednesday.

Egypt are next in action on Sunday evening, when they take on Uganda in the final game of Group A, with Warda expected to be in the squad after he was reinstated—seemingly under pressure from senior figures—on Friday.

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