Navigating the Warda storm

Marwan Ekshafei, Friday 5 Jul 2019,

The story of Egyptian national football team player Amr Warda couldn’t go peacefully without a response by the international media. The Greek-based winger had been sending inappropriate messages on social media to at least two women. Warda released a video to offer his apologies but not before the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) banned him from the current Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament before deciding to reinstate him.

Warda has the backing of Egyptian team captain Ahmed Elmohamady and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to foreign journalists for their opinion. “It was a great decision to cut Warda off the national team based on the available evidence,” Nick Ames of the Guardian newspaper said. “If I was one of the Egyptian national team players I would have asked the EFA to investigate and based on the answers of this investigation whether to accept the EFA’s decision or not.

“I think what Mohamed Salah did was so unusual. Salah isn’t the kind of player who gives strong opinions. He is very calm and well behaved and normally he doesn’t like to involve himself in these things,” Ames added.

“I really believe that neither Elmohamady nor Salah could have shown the same support if one of their teammates in England had done the same thing.”

“I think it is very controversial in the sense that at the beginning the EFA made a statement that what Warda did was unacceptable and they decided to suspend him from the national team,” Buster Kirchner, of the Danish sports magazine Tipsbladet, said. “Then they brought him back to the squad. I am so surprised that Salah, Elmohamady and (teammate) Baher Al-Mohamadi reacted the way they did. It would have been a great story for Egypt to promote themselves to the world that even if they have an important tournament, ethics and gender equality come first. It is so strange that the role models are defending a guy who has been accused of sexual harassment a lot of times.”

This was not Warda’s first time to be accused of sexual harassment. In 2013 he was suspended from the Egyptian youth national team for the same reason.

“I also criticise the EFA because at first they said that Warda must leave the squad immediately, then they brought him back. It Is good that the players support a friend who is also a good player but this is bigger than football. Here in Egypt football players are the real role models of youth,” Kirchner said.

“I think what Salah did wasn’t something he did on his own. I think it was a group decision to put some pressure on the EFA. There is a big difference between supporting Warda and forcing the EFA to bring him back,” he added.

Lorenz Kohler of KickOFF magazine in South Africa had this to say: “What Salah did came as a shock to me. It was 3 in the morning. I saw Warda’s apology video first, then I read what Salah tweeted. It was then that I knew that Warda was coming back to the national squad. I don’t think Salah controls the EFA but he made this for public perception rather than controlling the EFA. Here in Egypt, people take football players as role models and I don’t think what he did will give a good impression to the kids. I don’t think this would affect Salah’s reputation but it is not a good look for him as he usually likes to stay away from such things.

“It is so strange that it went from a lifetime ban to only a two-match suspension,” Kohler added. Also, I honestly believe that what they did was to win the AFCON, not to support Warda’s individual situation. In terms of squad depth, the Egyptian national team needs Warda as [Egypt’s coach Javier] Aguirre didn’t pick a lot of wingers and he needed him to be with the squad.”

*This story was published in Al-Ahram Weekly

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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