Egypt

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WATCH: We can’t stop watching Mo Salah juggle around Jose Sa

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Mohamed Salah is doing straight Lionel Messi-type stuff these days.

[ RECAP: Porto 0-5 Liverpool ]

Don’t like Leo? Then Ronaldinho. Or Thierry Henry.

Choose your star, but look at this touch and dribble work from Salah in Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over Porto in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday.

The Egyptian winger collected James Milner‘s rebound off the Porto cross bar and, at full speed, juggled the ball around keeper Jose Sa, softly settled to his feet with his dome, and finished his chance.

Yeah, it was five hours ago. Yeah, it deserves its own post. And yes, if you have seen it already you’re still going to want to watch it.

Mohamed Salah claims African Player of the Year

Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
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Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah has been named the African Player of the Year for 2017.

The 25-year-old attacker beat out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund/Gabon) and club teammate Sadio Mane (Senegal) for the honor.

[ MORE: Grading every PL club’s festive season ]

He’s the second-straight Premier League player to win the honor after Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City. Aubameyang won the award in 2015, breaking Yaya Toure’s four-peat.

Salah has 23 goals and eight assists in 29 matches for Liverpool since arriving from AS Roma this summer (he scored 10 goals and added nine assists between January and the end of i Lupi’s season).

He also scored the World Cup clinching goal for Egypt in World Cup qualifying.

Egypt coach believes Salah “would be good” for Real Madrid

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In his return to the Premier League, Mohamed Salah has been every bit the player Liverpool could have wanted him to be.

The Egyptian international may only be getting started though, according to his national team boss.

[ MORE: Swansea City appoints Carlos Carvalhal as manager ]

With rumors swirling about a possible move to Real Madrid in the near future, Egypt manager Hector Cuper has backed Salah to complete a transfer to the Spanish giants in the event an offer is made.

“I have no doubt he has the level, for sure,” Cuper recently said. “He has a lot of qualities and everyone knows that and can see that. He is a very fast player, good from a technical standpoint, he is a good finisher and that would be good for Madrid.”

This season, Salah has been scorching PL defenses, tallying 15 goals in England, while notching 21 goals across all competitions.

Salah has already surpassed his previous career-high in the finishing department, with nearly half the domestic season remaining for the Reds.

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

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Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.

Salah’s late PK sends Egypt to World Cup, joyous celebrations

Photo credit: @FIFAWorldCup
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For the first time since 1990, the Egyptians are headed to the World Cup.

[ UEFA: Lewandowski leads Poland to WC; England finish with another win ]

Courtesy of a Mohamed Salah brace, including the Liverpool winger’s 94th-minute game-winning penalty kick to secure victory over Congo on Sunday, Egypt’s World Cup drought ends after 27 long years and six straight tournaments missed.

[ MORE: France, Portugal one win away from qualifying; Netherlands out ]

The second Salah’s spot kick hit the back of the net, the crowd of 30,000 filling a military stadium in Alexandria, as well as one very emotional fan, celebrated in disbelief and gave thanks where necessary.