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Mohamed Salah is 'happy at Liverpool'; less so with the Egyptian FA

Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah tells Becky Anderson about the difficulties the Egypt team has with their FA, including at the AFCON.

Posted: Aug 19, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2019 2:10 PM

Mohamed Salah could scarcely be happier.

A Champions League winner with Liverpool, a Premier League and international superstar and a hero to millions across the world, Salah's popularity continues to soar. So much so that this year he was one of six TIME 100 cover stars, the magazine's annual list of the world's most influential people.

"I'm happy at Liverpool," Salah told CNN's Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview. "I'm happy in the city -- I love the fans and they love me. I'm happy at the club."

And yet, for all the success, there is still one snag nagging him -- his relationship with the national football association of his beloved Egypt.

Such has been the tempestuous nature of the relationship that there had even been reports last year that Salah was ready to give up playing for his country following a series of rows with the Egyptian Football Association.

Though hugely critical of the EFA and its perceived failings, the 27-year-old Salah says the opportunity to inspire future generations to play for their country remains at the heart of his ambition.

"I love this country from my heart," Salah said of Egypt. "It's always in my mind. Something pushed me forward to perform, to be iconic for the kids, to be like a dream for the kids to one day be like me.

"I want to be that person, so to just retire from the national team is huge for me."

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After winning the Champions League with Liverpool, Salah turned his attention to playing for the national team at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

According to Salah, what transpired at AFCON left him hugely frustrated at the politicking that is going on.

He accused the EFA of being in "competition" with him, hitting out at the lack of security afforded to players at the team hotel, while claiming grievances taken to the governing body were ignored.

Ahmed Shobair, the deputy head of the EFA, denied the accusations, insisting the players and the hotel was isolated from the public.

"These are the same accusations we heard from him (Salah) during the World Cup," Shobair told CNN.

"Compared to the alleged mistakes of the World Cup, the African Cup of Nations' training camp was extremely disciplined," he added.

Shobair and the rest of the EFA board members resigned in July in response to public anger for Egypt's performance in the African Cup.

"I think with the federation, it was a bit like a competition," Salah told CNN.

"Who's the winner? And for me, I will never be a winner because I'm a player. So, when I come to tell you something, you have to know that I'm telling you just because I want to be happy ... to get something for the national team, to do something more for the national team.

"It's not just that I'm telling you because I'm showing you that I'm powerful, I'm not powerful there. And believe me, if I'm powerful there, I could have changed a lot of things."

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Egypt, which hosted the 2019 tournament, had been expected to challenge for the title but was shocked by South Africa in the last 16, leading to EFA President Hany Abo Rida resigning from his position and coach Javier Aguirre losing his job.

Salah, who has endured a frosty relationship with the EFA over the past few years -- largely stemming over an image rights dispute and his criticism of the team's league's preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia -- was particularly critical of the EFA's failure to protect players from the general public in the team hotel during the recent tournament

And, during the recent AFCON tournament in Egypt, Salah said the ease with which people gained access to the team's hotel was "not normal."

"When we had one day off, I couldn't go down from the room until 9:30 p.m.," Salah said of the recent experience at AFCON.

"When I tried to go down it was like 200 people with me. And they (EFA) say, 'Why are you complaining?'

"I complain because I'm a human being. I want to be with the players. I want to sit down and enjoy my life. We are a team, we love each other, as players we want to play something.

"So, when I'm trying to say something, I'm saying for me and behalf of the players, because the players sometime talk to me, 'Please, if you can do that.'

"But for them it's a competition."

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This is not the first time Salah has been critical of the Egyptian FA.

Salah's row with the EFA over image rights was reignited last August after the national association used his image to promote the team's official sponsor WE at a time the player had a sponsorship deal with Vodafone.

The player also hit out at the association over its preparations for the World Cup in Russia, with his lawyer claiming that Salah had been woken between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. by autograph hunters knocking on his hotel door.

Salah was also unhappy at the national association after being photographed with Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, while preparing for the World Cup in Russia.

Salah was brought onto the field by Kadyrov, and warmly pictured while making him an honorary citizen.

Kadyrov has been widely criticized for human rights abuses, including the persecution and detainment of those in the LGBTQ community.

He denies the allegations but has made controversial statements that have more than raised eyebrows.

He once told HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," that, "We don't have such people here. We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them."

"Salah feels exposed by what has happened in Chechnya, a source told CNN in June last year. The Liverpool star doesn't wish to engage in topics beyond football or to be used for anyone's political image."

It led to speculation that he might quit the national team, though that never materialized

Though critical of the EFA, Salah accepts that the players, too, have to take some responsibility for the team's failure at AFCON.

He believes the pressure of being the host nation and fans' expectations proved difficult to cope with.

"It's too much pressure, 80,000 in the stadium I think or 70,000, for each game," Salah said.

"The players feel the pressure and we didn't perform at the top level, honestly. So I'm not talking about the player and hiding myself, but as a team we didn't perform good."

While Salah remains committed to the Egyptian national team, he wants to see changes when a new president of the EFA is eventually appointed.

"The one who is coming now needs to be honest with himself and try to fix the thing because as a player in the national team, they're not happy about a lot of things," he added.

"Hopefully the new one comes and does things differently."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20931250
Hinds19961410
Harrison17562303
Rankin13369277
Jackson13156243
Madison9950212
Lee9890170
Jones8310161
Forrest7542148
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6289144
Lamar613384
Lafayette6072117
Washington5291133
Bolivar4776129
Oktibbeha457197
Panola4458103
Pearl River4437141
Warren4299119
Marshall4286102
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4062132
Union404675
Neshoba4005176
Lincoln3886109
Hancock373385
Leflore3471124
Sunflower331589
Tate325384
Pike3215105
Scott311472
Yazoo305069
Alcorn299465
Itawamba297877
Copiah293965
Coahoma290479
Simpson289586
Tippah285168
Prentiss276659
Marion266279
Leake261773
Wayne261541
Grenada256484
Covington255280
Adams246982
Newton245761
George238547
Winston226081
Tishomingo222567
Jasper220048
Attala213673
Chickasaw205457
Holmes187172
Clay183254
Stone179733
Clarke177776
Tallahatchie176140
Calhoun165431
Yalobusha160136
Smith159334
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126534
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113832
Jefferson Davis105532
Tunica103225
Claiborne101330
Benton97525
Kemper95628
Humphreys94632
Franklin82923
Quitman78916
Choctaw73917
Wilkinson65128
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521623

Reported Deaths: 10739
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754061493
Mobile39067799
Madison34040496
Tuscaloosa25367444
Montgomery24019567
Shelby23186239
Baldwin20701302
Lee15589165
Calhoun14342311
Morgan14158271
Etowah13685346
Marshall11995220
Houston10404278
Elmore10011200
Limestone9852147
Cullman9503189
St. Clair9463234
Lauderdale9265228
DeKalb8757181
Talladega8115171
Walker7139275
Jackson6756110
Autauga6750103
Blount6519134
Colbert6229130
Coffee5424113
Dale4772111
Russell430038
Franklin420782
Chilton4101109
Covington4061114
Tallapoosa3907146
Escambia390174
Dallas3525149
Chambers3514122
Clarke347060
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295995
Winston273172
Bibb256059
Marengo248361
Geneva246075
Pickens233259
Barbour226455
Hale218575
Butler212967
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182644
Randolph177241
Monroe172540
Washington165238
Macon155648
Clay150155
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146741
Lamar139734
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124427
Bullock121640
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
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