Throughout history, there have been stories about people who have come from humble backgrounds and risen to the top in their professions and the story of Egyptian football player, Mohamed Salah, is just one of them.
By Egyptian standards, Mo Salah came from a middle class background and despite his abilities on the football field at an early age, it’s quite likely he never would have imagined his name would be on the lips of anyone who follows the beautiful game. Read on to learn more about this phenomenal player and discover how he went from Rags to riches.
From Rags To Riches
Mo Salah was born in the village of Nagrig, Gharbia, Egypt in 1992. He was raised in a middle income family and has a younger brother Nasr. From a very early age, Mo was obsessed with football, a passion that unfortunately interfered with his school work and despite having to change busses five times along the way, he travelled to Cairo everyday to train with the Cairo Youth Team of El Mokawloon.
In 2010, at the age of 18, he was selected to play for the senior team in the Egyptian Premier League, but his promotion to the first division of Egyptian football was short lived following the Port Said Stadium disaster in 2012, which took the lives of 73 brawling football fans.
Following the riots, emergency measures were taken by the newly installed Egyptian government, who decided to close down the football season indefinitely, a move which left Egyptian footballers facing an uncertain future.
Egypt has through the years, produced some very talented players and European talent scouts are always on the lookout for any that may suit their club’s requirements.
Mo Salah was spotted by one of them who felt the young player showed potential and he was made an offer to join Swiss Club FC Basel in 2012. Mo was signed by the club for an estimated $1.6M and when compared to the average wage of $ 1,200 per annum in the Egyptian league, it truly was a story of rags to riches.
Football Turns Ugly
On a deadly night in 2012, as many as 70 football fans were tragically left dead and many more injured after riots broke out at the Port Said Stadium between arch rivals Al Masry of Port Said and Al Ahly of Cairo.
The rioting was regarded as the worst at a football match since 1996, when 78 people lost their lives in a human stampede after a football match at a stadium in Guatemala City.
The incident between the brawling Egyptian fans took on a political dimension following the street protests little more than a year before in what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’ where fans from Port Said also referred to as Ultras were often on the frontline of protestors, taunting the establishment.
The news swiftly spread to Egypt’s capital, Cairo, where a match was taking place with Al Ahly’s rivals Zamalek, who in a rare act of sympathy for their arch rivals, decided to abandon their unfinished match.
The rioting was quickly blamed on the lack of security at the Port Said game by political parties who were opposed to the new elected regime after ousting the previous leader Hosni Mubarak who had reigned the country for more than 30 years.
Emergency meetings were held regarding the riots and in fear of the violence escalating in an already volatile political landscape, the Egyptian football league was cancelled indefinitely, leaving players in unknown territory as far as their careers were concerned.
Salah Gets A Taste Of Europe
Mo Salah settled into European football with relative ease when he joined Swiss Club FC Basel just three months after the riots at the Port Said Stadium. The change in climate form a sweltering Egyptian Summer that can see temperatures soaring into the late 40’sC didn’t seem to affect his playing ability and he was soon assisting his team in their pursuit of several trophies in his first season with the club.
Between 2012-13, his contribution to the game helped the club achieve victory in the Swiss Super League and runners-up in the Swiss Cup.
He was also instrumental in the club winning the Uhren Cup and helping the team to reach the semi finals in the UEFA Cup, for the first time in the club’s history. He was also elected as the Player Of The Year during his time in Switzerland and his football career had all the hallmarks of future success.
In an embarrassing moment on live tv, whilst receiving the Swiss award and being hailed as FC Basel’s superstar, Mo kissed the female presenter three times on the cheek, a greeting which is customary in Europe, however the same does not apply in his conservative homeland, Egypt and Mo found himself being criticized back home for the incident.
By 2014, his success at the club was also being noticed by other European football teams, notably, London based football club Chelsea who put were keen to sign him.
Liverpool FC, were interested in the young player too, but at the time they thought that the asking price was too high and while they dallied with their decision, Chelsea’s manager Jose’ Mourinho stepped in and snatched the player for an estimated £11M.
Is Jose’ Mourinho’s As Good As He Says He Is?
Jose Mourinho, has carved out a reputation as a canny football manager over the years since his early achievements with Portuguese club, FC Porto, and in recent years, he has enjoyed success in the top flight, steering several teams towards success.
But his recent managerial failure at Manchester United can only be described as a disastrous end to a season for the massive club who are used to winning silverware and their recent failure to do so, has cast a shadow of doubt over the skills of the outspoken manager’s abilities.
Mourinho learned his trade under the guidance of English manager Sir Bobby Robson who savoured the taste of success with Portuguese Clubs, Sporting Lisbon, Porto FC and later with Spanish giants Barcelona.
In his first season as manager of Porto FC in 2004, he successfully led the team to victory in the UEFA Europa League and also the UEFA Cup and left the club shortly afterwards to take charge of London based, Chelsea FC.
In his first year at the London Club, Mourinho led the team to their first league title in 50 years, a title which they retained the following year, along with a League Cup win and an FA Cup victory.
In 2008, he left the club rather abruptly after just three years amid rumours of a
fallout with club owner Roman Abramavitch, but his days in the English premier league were not over and he would return to English football almost nine years later in 2013 and by the beginning of the 2014 season, he had convinced the club’s owner to buy Mohamed Salah.
The Special One Returns To Stamford Bridge
Nine years after he had led the team to several domestic and international titles,
2013, saw the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea FC at Stamford Bridge. Previous animosity between himself and Russian Club owner Roman Abramovitch, seemed to have been resolved and the Portuguese manager was set on taking his team onto further wins in football.
To bolster the clubs striker potential in 2014, Mourinho convinced the club to buy Mohamed Salah who had been making the headlines in Switzerland whilst playing for Swiss Team FC Basel.
The young player was the first Egyptian to ever play for Chelsea FC and it was believed he would add value on the right wing to the already strong attacking force which Mourinho hoped would justify the player’s hefty price tag of £11M.
Mourinho had adapted a certain way he wanted his team to play and when asked about his football tactics during a press conference one day, he proclaimed to be ‘The Special One’, a title which the English media lapped-up with relish and one which was frequently regurgitated with tongue in cheek, by commentators whenever the Chelsea manager’s name was mentioned..
Sadly, Mo Salah had difficulty fitting in with ‘’The Special One’s’ unique style of play which restricted players from the freedom to roam which Mo had become accustomed to and after only scoring two goals in 11 appearances, the young player was sent on loan to Italian Club Fiorentino.
Salah’s Failed Career With Chelsea
In 2014, Mo Salah became a first time father to a baby daughter. She was born in the UK and Mo and his Egyptian wife named their daughter, Makka, in honour of the muslim holy city of Mecca.
Mo and his wife were looking forward to their new life in England, however the young footballer had found it difficult settling in with the Chelsea team and often found himself on the bench.
In a mutual exchange agreement, Mo went on loan to the Serie A, Italian team, Fiorentino, and soon found himself on the field in an important match when he was brought on as a substitute in the 65th minute. The team went on to win the match and thereafter Mo was usually selected in the starting lineup of every match, scoring 6 goals in his next 6 matches.
Mo went on to impress the team coaches at Fiorentino for the rest of the season, but refused to remain with the club when they offered him a permanent role at the club. He instead moved to Italian club Roma for an estimated 5M Euros with an additional fee in the area of 15m Euros at a later stage.
Salah’s football career started to truly blossom at Roma and after moving to the club in 2016, be became their top goal scorer and was awarded player of the season. He was also named as the African Footballer Of The Year.
He spent two seasons at Roma before being bought by English Premier League side Liverpool FC in 2017, for an astounding £50M.
Salah’s Rise To The Top
Mo Salah hit the ground running in his first season with English premier league side, Liverpool FC when he joined the club. Recently arrived manager Jurgen Klopp placed him on the right wing, and it wasn’t long before he seamlessly joined the other front row players in the shape Brazilian international, Roberto Firmino and Senegalese, striker, Sadio Mane’ to forge a formidable strike force.
The trio’s speed, skills and accuracy began to send shivers through opposing defenders, most of whom could not keep up with the pace and style the three had developed.
The style of play could arguably be accredited to the team’s manager Jurgen Klopp who allowed his players and in fact, encouraged his players to float freely around the penalty area, choosing their chances at will.
In his first season with the club, Mo Salah enjoyed his first hattrick with the team in a 5-0 thumping of Watford. In the same season, Salah went on to set a club record by scoring 36 goals. The Egyptian player who stands at 5feet 9 inches was also instrumental in Liverpool FC reaching the UEFA Cup finals against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, but that game was filled with controversy when Salah was brought down in blatant foul tackle by Real’s defender Sergio Ramos and the Egyptian had to be stretchered off the field with a bad shoulder injury and Real Madrid went on to win the Cup for the third consecutive year.
Mo Salah’s New Direction In LIfe
Mo Salah knew from a very early age, that he wanted to do nothing else in his life other than play football at the top level. As a kid kicked the football around at every opportunity and was often chastised by his parents and teachers for not paying enough attention to his school work.
His father and uncle were keen on football too and they played for a local amateur side and they both recognised Mo’s extraordinary talent with the ball. Small in frame and not very tall, Mo had near perfect balance around a football, and with pure determination and passion for the game, his skills kept improving day by day.
It was with reluctance that Mo’s parents agreed to him leaving Egypt to play football in Europe in 2012, but they realised their son was destined to make his name in international football and make a name for himself he did. He is now one of the most sought after players in the football world.
After his successful campaign with Italian sides, Fiorentino FC and then with Roma, Mo Salah, was also one of the leading scorers in the The Africa Cup Of Nations, whilst representing the Egyptian national and helped them reach the finals.
He was also instrumental in the national squad qualifying for the world cup, but didn’t manage to impress and the team were quickly eliminated in the early stages of the knockout stages.
Mo Salah joined Liverpool FC in 2017 and under the guidance of new manager, Jurgen Klopp, he went on to become the highest goal scorer in the top 5 European clubs and won the PFA Players Player Of The Year Award 2018 and was also awarded the Golden Boot in the same year. His achievement on the field, can be defined as nothing short of excellence in his first season and many observers give credit for this to the team’s manager, Jurgen Klopp.
Mastermind Jurgen Klopp
Having led the German team, Mainz, into the german first division, in 2004, Jurgen Klopp moved on to take charge of Borussia Dortmund, where he remained as manager until 2015 and by the end of the first season, Dortmund had made their way into European football for the first time in seven years.
The team didn’t progress too well in european football and were soon eliminated which allowed Klopp to concentrate on the domestic league which they won for the first time since 2002, with two games to spare. In the same season, the team also went on to win the league cup for the very first time after thrashing Bavarian rivals, Bayern Munich 5-2
During the 2012/13 season, the team reached the UEFA Champions League final for the first time since 1997, but lost the match Bayern Munich in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley Stadium, London.
Klopp had instilled a new style of football for Dortmund which was aggressively pressing, and quick on the counter attack, a style that team has tried to maintain ever since.
By 2014/15, Klopp was considered by many to be one of the best football tacticians in the game and after an emotional farewell to Dortmund, he became the new manager for English club Liverpool FC.
What The Future Holds For The Egyptian Pharaoh?
Since his international rise to fame whilst playing for 6 time winners of the UEFA Champions League Cup, Liverpool FC, Salah has become a household name in his homeland Egypt and the happy go lucky player has also been given the name The Egyptian Pharaoh by his millions of supporters across the nation.
He has also come to be known as a very compassionate person. Before his rise to fame in European football, he was playing in an away game in Alexandria, Egypt, when his parents were robbed. The young robber was apprehended a few days after the robbery and faced prosecution and definite jail time, but Salah urged his parents to drop all charges against the young man and they eventually complied. Mo also gave the young man money to help him towards a better start in life.
His adoring fans in Egypt, refer to him as the 4th pyramid, a title which is not handed out readily. He is deeply religious and celebrates his goal scoring with a Sujuud, the moslem offering of thanks to Allah.
He is also respectful of others on the football field, and after scoring in a recent match against his former club, Roma, he chose not to celebrate as an act of respect towards the opposing players and fans.
Mo Salah’s generosity has no bounds and he is using his newfound wealth by building a school and a hospital in his hometown and he plans to do even more in the future to help the community that he grew up in.
Although his goal scoring has dropped off in recent months, he is still one of the highest scorers in the English Premier League and his goal scoring tally in European matches is one which most football players would be proud of.