Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, footballer with a big heart

By Alexis Billebault

Posted on Friday, 27 May 2022 11:05
Mohamed Salah after the 2-1 win over Congo in Alexandria on October 8, 2017, sealing Egypt's qualification for the 2018 World Cup. ©Amr Sayed/Apaimages/SIPA

World-famous for his performances with his club Liverpool, the future Champions League finalist is also a man who regularly offers a helping hand to his compatriots. All while carefully avoiding attempts at political recuperation.

There is the kind of information that the media makes public, and then there’s everything that falls under the seal of confidentiality. Mohamed Salah, 29, the Premier League’s top scorer and passer (23 goals and 13 assists), is collecting titles. With the Reds, the Egyptian finished this season in second place in the Premier League behind Manchester City, won the English Cup and the League Cup, and hopes to win his second Champions League after the 2019 edition against Real Madrid on 28 May.

Salah, whose market value is estimated at €100 million and whose monthly salary is expected to rise to €2,360,000 next season (excluding bonuses), is not only a delight for the English taxman. Since he started playing in Europe, the Egyptian Pharaoh’s captain has made a habit of using part of his income to improve the lives of thousands of his compatriots, who often have to get by on less than €40 a month to survive.

Monthly allowances, water treatment plant, nursery…

Salah, born in Nagrig, a small town in the northern governorate of Gharbeya, comes from a modest family. His father held an administrative position in a hospital and his mother, a housewife, raised their three children. Now a very popular multi-millionaire, the striker has not turned his back on his roots. On the contrary. In 2017, he founded Nagrig Charity Association, a foundation to help his native village.

He financed the construction of the village’s stadium, an act that is far from insignificant since football is the most popular sport in Egypt. Salah, who has extended his activities to the neighbouring town of Basyoun, also decided in April 2018 to pay a monthly allowance to 450 poor families in the region, without making public the amount of this ongoing aid. He has also financed the construction of a dispensary and a girls’ school in Nagrig, and the creation of a nursery in Basyoun.

Defender of animals

Very active in social causes, because he is aware of the destitution in which millions of his compatriots live, Salah has also increased his actions in the health field over recent years. In January 2021, after at least six people in Nagrig hospital died of Covid-19 due to a shortage of oxygen cylinders, Salah equipped the hospital with enough supplies to meet its needs.

He had previously funded an ambulance station and a cancer centre in Nagrig. He also purchased land worth €430,000 before handing it over to the governorate to build a sewage treatment plant.

Salah is also known to have donated 235,000 euros to the state-run Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) fund to finance various development projects, to have given €30,000 to help former footballers in need, and donated to animal charities.

And when he isn’t writing cheques, Salah, whose father Ghaly manages his many charitable activities, lends his name to certain causes. He auctioned off the shirt he wore against Manchester United on 24 October, promising to donate all the proceeds to animal rights organisations. When he was ten years old and training at Basyoun, almost every day Salah used to bring food to the stray dogs who had taken up residence under the stadium’s terraces.

He also participated in a campaign against drug abuse. It didn’t take long for Salah’s intervention to have a visible effect, as it was viewed several million times on social networks. Meanwhile, the social solidarity ministry recorded an uptick of almost 400% in incoming calls.

And the man who was chosen in February 2020 by the United Nations to become the first ambassador of the Instant Network Schools, a structure in charge of helping young migrants by providing them with educational material, has become very popular in his country.

One million votes in 2018

In Egypt’s last presidential election, in March 2018, nearly one million voters cast a ballot in his name, a gesture perceived on the banks of the Nile as a stinging disavowal of the political class.

President Sisi never misses an opportunity to say how proud Egypt is of the striker’s performances, without dwelling too much on the shadow Salah casts over the president’s own performance.

For his part, Salah has always kept a careful distance from the government and never mentions politics. In Egypt, as in many other countries, the recuperation of great athletes for political purposes is also a national sport…

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