Egyptians around the world gathered around TV sets to watch their favourite footballer, Mohamed Salah, as he played his last game in the Premier League on Sunday. They had wanted a victory for his club Liverpool against Crystal Palace that would seal a Champions League spot, and for Salah to win the Golden Boot for most goals in a season.
Heading towards their last game, the Egyptian superstar was level with his Tottenham rival Harry Kane at 22 goals apiece.
Liverpool did their bit by beating Crystal Palace 2-0 thanks to a Sadio Mane brace.
The win allowed Liverpool to finish third in the standings, thus qualifying for next year’s European Champions League. However, Kane scored his 23rd goal to take home the Golden Boot. The Spurs striker also picked up the Playmaker Award as he registered the most assists during the season.
Kane’s opening goal saw Spurs beat Leicester 4-2. It also saw the England striker win the Golden Boot for the third time in his career, but it is the first time he has managed the feat since Salah made the move to Anfield, with the Egyptian winning it twice during that period.
A dismal start to 2021 saw Liverpool, the defending champions of the Premier League, quickly collapse, facing up to the real possibility of missing out on Europe’s elite competition next year.
In February, Liverpool suffered three consecutive defeats to Brighton, Man City and Leicester City, which forced Salah to take to Twitter and write a heartfelt promise to the club’s supporters.
“It’s been a tough period for many reasons,” he wrote. “We are champions and we will fight like champions, until the very end.
“We will not allow this season to be defined by the recent results we’ve had. That is my promise to all of you.”
Liverpool recovered to finish the season with a 10-match unbeaten run and clinch a previously unlikely top three finish as a result.
And after the Reds’ final day victory over Crystal Palace, Salah spoke to his supporters again after delivering on his mid-season vow. He sent his supporters a passionate message after helping the Reds qualify for the Champions League.
“We went through a lot this season. The empty stadiums, coupled with the great hurdles we faced, would have shattered any other team. Not us. We came third. And never stopped believing.”
Salah was close to scoring on Sunday when he received an assist from Mane, but could not add to his tally.
The 28-year-old took to Twitter following the loss of his favourite award, but this time it was to congratulate his Spurs counterpart.
“Very well deserved! Congratulations!” Salah wrote in response to Kane’s own celebratory post which read, “Delighted to win these awards! Not possible without the team and staff throughout the season.”
Salah might join the young Pharaohs at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) had sent a letter to Liverpool asking for a release of the player to join the Under-23 team, to be among the three senior players. Salah was a member of the Egyptian football team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
According to EFA, it has asked Liverpool to answer the call for duty and are awaiting their reply.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly