How a Top World Soccer Star Hates Israel — and Gets Away With It
Mohamed Salah is currently on top of the soccer world. Salah, hailing from Nagrig, a small Egyptian village, recently scored the winning goal of a game watched by nearly 200 million people around the world. But behind his famed scraggly-haired, smiling disposition, and unparalleled soccer talent, there is a history of bigotry and antisemitism that many have either ignored or are not aware of.
Salah’s public record of antisemitism first emerged in a 2014 match in Israel. In the first of two meetings between the teams, Salah attempted to play off not shaking hands with Israeli players by feigning tying his shoe; however, when the snub happened a second time, Israeli fans recognized the hostile act for what it was and booed him. Initially, Salah had planned to boycott playing in Israel altogether, but he was later persuaded to put politics and bigotry aside for the sake of the game.
Salah’s efforts at undermining the validity of Israel’s existence were further put on display when he bashed the Jewish state in a pre-game interview ahead of a match in Netanya.
“In my thoughts I am going to play in Palestine and not Israel, and I am also going to score and win there. The Zionist flag won’t be shown in the Champions League,” he said.
If his “tying my shoes” facade in 2014 wasn’t unsportsmanlike enough, his firebrand anti-Zionist comments and refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist display Salah’s grotesque views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a stark difference from his golden boy public perception in the wake of his recent success.
Then, further brandishing himself as an antisemite and anti-Zionist, Salah used his powerful position and newfound stardom to issue an ultimatum that he would refuse to play alongside Moanes Dabour, a 27-year-old Israeli striker, whom Salah’s Liverpool team took an interest in. Dabour was never signed by the team, with widespread speculation that Salah’s threats caused management to avoid moving forward with Dabour.
Although Salah is feted for his impressive athletics, his politicization of the conflict and his aggressive anti-Zionist stance should have no place in the international sports arena. Both the UEFA and FIFA — the largest soccer governing bodies globally — constantly state their commitment to reject discrimination, racism, and other forms of bigotry. Salah’s clout and physical adroitness shouldn’t exempt him from accountability for his clearly bigoted and discriminatory actions.
Noah Phillips is a young writer with a particular interest in Jewish/Israeli affairs. He writes a column for Elder of Ziyon and is the founder of The Jewish Post, an online Jewish political magazine. Follow Noah on Twitter @noahaphilli.