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Egypt’s retired star Aboutrika sentenced to prison

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CAIRO (AP) An Egyptian court sentenced Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the country’s greatest all-time soccer players, to a year in prison for tax evasion while also giving him the option to pay a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds, or $1,115, to have the sentence suspended.

The verdict, handed down on Monday by the Cairo misdemeanor court, was delivered in absentia.

Aboutrika, who has lived since his 2013 soccer retirement in exile in Qatar, where he works as a sports analyst for the beIN sports network, could not be reached for comment.

Under the law, the verdict can be appealed and if Aboutrika returns to Egypt, he would have to stand a new trial.

The court said Aboutrika failed to pay 710,000 Egyptian pounds – about $39,500 – in taxes on income from advertising deals with carbonated drink and telecommunications companies in 2008 and 2009.

Egypt froze Aboutrika’s assets in 2015 and placed him on a no-fly list in 2017 over allegations of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have labelled a terrorist organization.

The Brotherhood emerged as the country’s dominant political force after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising but was later purged in 2013, when the army, led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected but divisive president.

Aboutrika played for Cairo’s Al-Ahly club and was central to two of 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.

Aboutrika was dubbed “Prince of Hearts” and “The Magician” by his soccer fans.

But he also openly sympathized with the Brotherhood and publicly endorsed Morsi in his successful presidential run in 2012, a year after the overthrow of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian pro-government media now refer to Aboutrika as a traitor but he still enjoys huge support from his soccer fans in the country.

Aboutrika has repeatedly denied ever funding the Islamists, who have been the main target of a fierce government crackdown on dissent led by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Salah update as Egyptian heads back to Liverpool

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Will Liverpool have Mohamed Salah available for matches against Huddersfield Town and Red Star Belgrade?

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The Egyptian star, 26, was injured in a 4-1 win over Swaziland in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, and the hamstring ailment is not considered long-term but enough to stop him from participating in the return leg.

Salah has three goals and two assists in 11 matches for Liverpool this season, but those numbers are a reflection of his out-of-form finishing not chance creation. The Egyptian remains as active and dangerous as he was in his unreal 2017-18 season.

From Sky Sports, translated from the Egypt FA:

“During the previous match against Swaziland, Salah complained of stress in the musculoskeletal muscle. He was examined medically and radiation was performed on the area of complaint after the game.”

Xherdan Shaqiri is the favorite to start for Liverpool should Salah be unable to play Saturday. As with Kevin De Bruyne‘s injury for Man City, albeit a long-term one, the Reds’ next few games are fortunately forgiving. With apologies to Red Star, Arsenal is the only big name in Liverpool’s next seven matches.

As for those thinking this is a mixed blessing as Egypt could be hurt in AFCON qualifying? The Pharoahs are well-positioned to qualify for AFCON 2019, behind Tunisia in its group but five points clear of Swaziland and Niger at the midpoint of Group J play. Now whether the Egypt FA will be in Salah’s good graces come January is another story.

Mohamed Salah leaves Egypt’s qualifier due to injury

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CAIRO (AP) Egypt’s assistant coach says Mohamed Salah‘s injury “doesn’t look serious” after the Liverpool forward limped off late in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland.

Salah scored direct from a corner in Egypt’s 4-1 win but went down with what appeared to be a leg injury in the 88th minute of Friday’s qualifier. He received treatment and tried to shake off the problem but left the field soon after, in injury time.

Egypt had used all three of its substitutes and played the last moments of the match with 10 men.

Assistant coach Hany Ramzy told Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram he thinks “it is only a muscle strain but he will undergo medical scans to determine the length of the injury.”

Salah is expected to sit out an away game in Swaziland on Tuesday. Liverpool’s next game is away to Huddersfield in the Premier League next Saturday.

The win put Egypt level with Tunisia at the top of Group J, although Tunisia has a game in hand.

He could’ve scored six: Salah shines for Egypt

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Mohamed Salah had a night.

Returning to Egypt for the first time since the World Cup, Salah scored twice and added two assists in a 6-0 win over Niger in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. He also missed two penalties, converted the rebound of one.

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The video doesn’t lie: The Egyptian superstar probably could’ve scored as many as six goals (and Niger’s defense was terrible). That estimate may even be conservative.

It started with Salah missing a first minute penalty, but this video shows just how dominant of a performance was put forth by the Liverpool star. Regardless of opponent, it should be eye-opening for those who think his incredible season with the Reds was simply a product of Jurgen Klopp‘s system.

Salah’s dispute with Egyptian FA not over

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CAIRO (AP) Mohamed Salah has revived a months-long dispute with soccer authorities in his native Egypt, accusing them of ignoring his complaints about their unauthorized use of his image.

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The dispute over image rights and lingering tensions over his treatment during the World Cup have cast doubt on whether Salah, the top scorer in England’s Premier League last season, will continue playing on the national team.

“It’s normal that a football federation seeks to solve the problems of its players so they can feel comfortable. But in fact, what I see is exactly the opposite,” the Liverpool winger tweeted Sunday.

“It is not normal that my messages and my lawyer’s messages are ignored. I do not know why all this (is happening)? Do you not have time to respond to us?!” he added.

Egypt’s football association said in a statement it would discuss Salah’s demands Monday.

Ramy Abbas, Salah’s agent, said he and his client have asked for guarantees regarding the 26-year-old’s “well-being” while on the national team and assurances that his image rights won’t be violated again. “Enough is enough,” Abbas tweeted.

Salah’s tweet was widely shared in Egypt, where he is seen as a national hero.

Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris called for the resignation of the football association’s board members.

“Treating an Egyptian figure like Mohamed Salah who raised his country’s name in an unprecedented way should not have been like that… Resign and relieve us after the abject failure,” Sawiris tweeted Monday.

The dispute first surfaced in April when the Egyptian national team prominently featured Salah’s image on its plane, which was provided by official team sponsor WE. Salah has a sponsorship deal with a rival telecommunications firm, Vodafone.

At the time, Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz announced that all of Salah’s demands would be met following an emergency meeting of the football association’s board. Farag Amer, head of parliament’s Youth and Sports committee, said President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had ordered that the dispute be quickly resolved.

Salah is due to be back in international action under new coach Javier Aguirre in September, with Egypt facing Niger in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

But his participation could be in doubt.

Salah’s relationship with the association has been strained since he was apparently used as a political symbol while the World Cup squad was based in Chechnya. In June, two people close to Salah told The Associated Press that the player has been considering retiring from international play.

Salah was said to have been particularly annoyed by a dinner banquet hosted by Ramzan Kadyrov, the ruler of the Russian region of Chechnya, in which he granted the Egyptian “honorary citizenship.”

Salah was criticized in British media after posing for photos with Kadyrov, who has repeatedly been accused of human rights abuses, including torture and the killing of political opponents. Kadyrov denies the allegations.