Attempt to give Mo Salah Egypt's captain armband backfires

Hatem Maher , Saturday 26 Oct 2019

Veteran right-back Ahmed Fathi insists he has every right to remain Egypt's skipper as coach attempts to give the armband to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah
File photo of Egypt and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah (AFP)

An attempt to hand Mohamed Salah the captain's armband of the Egyptian national team backfired, with one veteran player threatening to walk off should the Liverpool star be named as skipper.

Traditionally, the most senior player is named as captain -- in this case Ahly's versatile right-back Ahmed Fathi, who has 130 international caps.

However, it seemed Egypt's new coach Hossam El-Badry wanted to alter that tradition, preferring to give the armband to the standout player of the current generation.

Although El-Badry never said publicly that Salah is his preferred choice as a captain, news of a meeting he held with Fathi were quickly leaked to the media.

During that meeting, the former Ahly boss sought to convince Fathi, 34, to give up the armband, which he vehemently refused, according to his agent.

"Fathi insisted that it's his right to be the captain of the national team," Nader Shawky said in a television interview.

"He will not join the national team if he is stripped off the captaincy. And as far as I understand, Salah will not accept to be given the armband while Fathi is present."

The subject stirred a debate on social media, with some arguing that El-Badry's request was degrading for someone of Fathi's caliber and experience while others said it was simply up to the coach to decide.

Some critics have long criticised the current system that favours the senior footballers regardless of whether they boast leadership qualities or not, citing the example of many famed European clubs and national teams that pick skippers according to different criteria.

For instance, Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt became the youngest captain in a European Champions League knockout game when he wore Ajax's skipper armband  at 19 years and 186 days old in a game against Real Madrid last February.

"We need to look for those who have the qualities needed to lead the team on and off the pitch, not just those who made their first appearances long time ago!" said one Twitter user.

But others believe El-Badry was not smart enough to begin his reign with such an attempt, given that it could lead to needless rifts in the dressing room at a time when the Pharaohs look to make up for the embarrassment of waving goodbye to the African Cup of Nations at the last-16 stage on home soil earlier this year.

"This is the worst possible time for El-Badry. He could have waited a bit and tried later to change the whole system, gradually," said another user on Twitter.

Sooner or later, Salah will wear the captain's armband anyway.

The 27-year-old, the top scorer of the current crop with 41 international goals in 67 appearances, is fourth in the line of skippers after Fathi, Abdallah El-Said and Ahmed Hegazi, with the former two already in the twilight of their careers.

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