ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Egyptian star Mohamed Salah has given his first public indication of his disagreement with his country’s soccer federation over the team’s use of Chechnya as a base during their ill-fated World Cup campaign.
Salah had remained publicly silent on the choice of Grozny, the Chechen capital, as the team’s base and his anger that he was used as a political symbol by Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who faces accusations of human rights violations in the predominantly Muslim Russian region.
“Some might think it’s over but it isn’t over. There needs to be change,” the 26-year-old Salah wrote cryptically on his Twitter account late Sunday.
The Egyptian federation, particularly its chairman Hany Abo Rida, was the target of the tweet, a person close to Salah told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The federation issued a statement Monday saying it was prepared for an inquiry by government agencies into its handling of the World Cup campaign.
Egypt lost all three matches in Russia, crashing out of its first World Cup since 1990 and causing an outcry back home over the team’s performance and the federation’s management.
Two federation officials told the AP that teammates pressured Salah into attending a banquet hosted by Kadyrov for Egypt’s World Cup squad. They said Salah wanted to stay away, arguing that being seen with Kadryrov would hurt his image. He went only after being warned that not attending could trigger a diplomatic incident between Egypt and Russia.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Salah, the world’s best known Muslim athlete today, is coming off a breakout season with Liverpool, scoring 44 goals and helping the team reach the Champions League final. He was rewarded Monday with a new, five-year contract.
During the June 22 dinner, Kadyrov granted Salah honorary citizenship.
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