Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah has revealed that he sometimes feels pressure to be a role model, and also, in an interview with Time magazine, called for more respect for women, especially in the Middle East.
The 26-year old, who was chosen by Time as one of their 100 most influential people in 2019, was quoted as saying that "People always have big big expectations for you. You see the kids, they’re wearing your shirt. They says they wish they could be like you one day.
"So they put you under pressure a little bit but in the meantime, that’s something that makes you proud about what you have reached until now," he said.
Salah became an iconic figure in Egypt and the region after unpreceded successes playing for Liverpool in England’s Premier League. He was the only footballer to have been named to the Time list.
“To be the first Egyptian in [this] situation and no one has done this before … it’s something different,” he said.
Salah said that soccer fans in the Middle East “feel like I’m their son.”
The Liverpool winger said that his rise to fame hasn’t changed him as a person, and that he enjoys spending time with his family as usual.
“I just live my life normal,” he said. “Most of the time I stay at home, I don’t like to go out,” he added.
Support for women
In the videotaped interview published on Time website, Salah expressed his full support for women’s rights and called for a change in the culture in the region.
“I think we need to change the way we treat women in our culture. It’s not optional,” he said.
He was also quoted as saying that seeing how women were treated “in my culture and in the Middle East” had changed the way he thought about gender relations.
“I support the woman more than I did before, because I feel like she deserves more than what they give her now, at the moment.”
Journey to the top
Salah also talked about his path to the top.
“I am from Nagrig, a small village five hours from Cairo. I’ve played football since I was seven years old or maybe even before,” Salah said.
Born in Gharbiya governorate in Egypt, he started playing in the youth ranks of his local town club Ittihad Bassioun, then Osmasoun Tanta, before moving to the Egyptian Premier League club of Arab Contractors in 2010.
He joined Swiss giants FC Basel in the summer of 2012, starting his European journey.
“When I came from Egypt to Switzerland, in the beginning I was suffering a lot because of the language, because of the culture and because of the hard work. But you know I am happy that I’m here right now, after a long way,” he added.
Salah moved to Chelsea in 2014 but couldn’t meet the expectations of his coach Jose Mourinho and moved to the Serie A playing for Fiorentina and Roma until he got back to the Premier League in 2017 to join Liverpool.
“From my first day here at the club, I had a warm welcome from the fans. I feel the love. They give me motivation in the game. I feel like supported from them, you feel the love when they sing your song. That must mean you are special,” he concluded.
Salah won the Premier League top scorer and best player awards last season and came third in the FIFA Best Player Award in 2018.
He is leading the top scorers’ chart this season with 19 goals, along with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, and shoulders Liverpool fans’ hopes of winning their first Premier League title since 1990.
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