Egypt duo Salah, El-Neny could face Israel's Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Hatem Maher, Friday 19 Jul 2013
Basel’s Egyptian duo Mohamed Salah and Mohamed El-Neny likely to face Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv in a Champions League game that is expected to stir controversy among Egyptian football fans


Basel duo Mohamed Salah and Mohamed El-Neny could be forced to encounter one of the Egyptian football taboos - playing in Israel.

Their Swiss club are likely to face Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the third qualifying round of the elite European Champions League after the Israeli outfit claimed a 2-0 away victory over Hungary’s Gyori ETO in the first leg of the preliminary round.

Should Maccabi Tel-Aviv advance, they will host Basel on 30 July in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round.

Playing in Israel has long been a contentious issue in Egyptian football, with many arguing that it amounts to “normalizing” ties with Israel.

A peace treaty between Egypt and Israel has been in place since 1979 but it did little to dispel public anger over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Egypt’s in-form forward Salah, who played a key role in helping Basel retain their Swiss league title last season, simply wrote “Israel..” on his Facebook page without clarifying whether he intends to feature in the away tie.

More than 40 comments ensued within an hour, with some users calling on him to boycott the match and others urging him to play and “defeat the Zionists”.

Compatriot Mohamed El-Neny, an Egyptian international midfielder who penned a permanent deal with Basel in the summer after spending the second half of last season on loan at the Swiss champions, did not comment.

Former Egyptian international defender Hany Ramzy, now coach of Egypt's Wadi Degla, stirred controversy in 1994 when he went to Israel to play with Werder Bremen against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the old UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Describing his visit to Israel as an interesting experience, Ramzy said at the time: “I do my work as a professional and I do not mix Politics with Sports”.

Former Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan opted to play when Belgian club Anderlecht hosted Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup in 2007.

“I can't understand why they attacked me for playing against Hapoel, some questioned my loyalty, others called me a traitor, but all I can say is that these people need to think it over, this is nonsense,” Hassan, who now plays for Cairo side Zamalek, said at the time.

“The game wasn’t even in Israel, it was in Belgium. There was no reason to pull out, I am under contract to play all games and I have to respect my contract.”

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