Fallout runs deep as Salah, Egypt flop at Cup of Nations

Hosts face backlash on and off the pitch, fans slam ‘disgusting’ exit

by AFP/ pic by AFP

CAIRO • After his tale of redemption with Liverpool this season, Mohamed Salah (picture) was instead left in disbelief once more as Egypt crashed out of their own Africa Cup of Nations, an exit that triggered an immediate clear-out within the country’s football association.

Thembinkosi Lorch scored on 85 minutes to give South Africa a stunning 1-0 victory on Saturday, which will see them facing arch-rivals Nigeria in the quarter-finals.

While Salah helped lead his club to a sixth European Cup triumph in June, a year on from an injury that forced him out of the final, he was powerless to prevent the Pharaohs’ humiliation on the international stage for the second time in 12 months.

He also, uncharacteristically, made headlines off the pitch after offering a degree of support for disgraced teammate Amr Warda, who was banished from the squad over sexual harassment allegations only to later be recalled — with Salah at the forefront of appeals for his reinstatement.

One of the most popular Twitter hashtags in the wake of Salah and others defending the midfielder was “National team of sexual harassers”.

Salah faced a backlash from many users after saying Warda deserved a “second chance” and that “shunning is not the answer”.

Many of Salah’s fans noted his hypocritical line of argument. He has made a point of speaking up for women in the Muslim world, and in an April interview with Time magazine he vehemently defended their rights in the region.

Shouldering the weight of expectation of nearly 100 million Egyptians, hoping for a fourth title in five editions as hosts, the Pharaohs spurned Egypt’s best chance in a bitter defeat that provoked widespread dismay throughout the football-mad nation.

“I’m really sad. Nobody expected we would go out at this stage. We thought for sure our team would reach the final,” said Mohamed Alaa, a 17-year-old fan from Cairo.

Amr Kamel, 23, said he was “disgusted” by the team’s abject failure.

The sense of shame prompted Egyptian FA president Hani Abou Rida to sack coach Javier Aguirre and announce his own resignation out of “moral obligation” just hours after the defeat, paving the way for a vast shake-up within the organisation.

Aguirre came in for criticism for his management of the side during the Cup of Nations, with Egypt legend Wael Gomaa accusing the Mexican of having “no tactics or strategy”.

Following Saturday’s defeat, Aguirre said he alone took the blame for the host nation’s disastrous campaign, with his departure coming after less than a year in the job.

Abou Rida also called on board members to quit after “disappointing Egypt’s supporters” and bringing an end to his three-year reign marked by controversy, including a 2018 World Cup fiasco that saw the Pharaohs fail to get out of the group stage after losing all of their matches.