Mo Salah ‘free’ to play in Gabon, but not Egypt
Liverpool FC told the Egyptian Football Association that Mohamed Salah will be "free to travel" to Gabon for Egypt’s second qualifier in the World Cup after stopping him from playing in the first qualifier in Cairo, according to reports.
The Premier League club blocked Salah from representing his national team on home turf against Angola on 2 September due to UK Covid-19 travel restrictions. Egypt is a UK "red list" country, so travellers must isolate for 10 days in a managed hotel when arriving back in Britain.
However, Gabon is an "amber list" country, that requires no isolation period for the fully vaccinated and no quarantining in a managed hotel for the unvaccinated. Reports on Tuesday from Sky Sports News stated that Salah could play against Gabon on 5 September.
Ahmed Schubert, the former goalkeeper of the Egyptian national team and Al-Ahly, and the former vice president of the Egyptian Football Association made a plea for Liverpool to lift its ban on Salah for both or at least one of the upcoming fixtures, according to a report by Elwatan News.
"In the event that Salah does not join the Angola match in Egypt, and is allowed to play the Gabon match... because the latter is located within the yellow zone countries, the Egyptian Federation is ready to provide a private plane for Salah in order to come to Gabon," he said.
Salah "represents the Egyptian national team is of great importance and there is no alternative for it," said Schubert.
Liverpool’s decision to bar Salah from the Cairo game follows the European Club Association’s (ECA) policy that no players will be released for international fixtures if they have to quarantine on return to the UK.
While attempts to seek exemptions from the mandatory quarantine rules have been made, no agreement between the Premier League and the UK government has been reached.
This could prevent players from countries such as Argentina and Brazil - also on the UK’s “red list” - from returning home to play for their national teams, such as Liverpool’s Alisson Becker and PSG’s Lionel Messi.
While some fans accepted this judgement on social media, others have condemned the decision to block Salah’s return to Egypt for the first game.
"If you’re an Egyptian fan of @LFC, it’s time to reassess your own self worth knowing the club clearly couldn’t care less about its fan base among your people. You are, in fact, walking alone. #YNWA," said one supporter on Twitter using an account named Pharaohs, after the national team.
The Egyptian federation also wanted Salah to play for the national team at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, but it said Liverpool denied the request. Clubs are not obligated to release players for the men’s Olympic tournament.