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VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov has granted honorary citizenship to Egypt's striker Mohamed Salah at a banquet held to say goodbye to Egypt's World Cup squad.

The Friday night banquet was held at Kadyrov's presidential palace in Grozny, and the Chechen leader posed with Salah for pictures while pinning a medal on his chest.

"It is a deserved honor," Kadyrov wrote on Russian social media, adding that Salah's presence had driven "unprecedented interest in football".

It was the third time in two weeks that the Chechen leader has shown his admiration for 26-year-old Liverpool striker Salah.

Kadyrov attended Egypt's first practice session in Grozny on June 10. After watching for about 30 minutes, he drove to the squad's nearby hotel where Salah, nursing a shoulder injury, was relaxing in his room.

The Chechen leader asked Salah to accompany him back to the stadium, where the two later posed for photos and greeted the 5,000 fans who had tickets to watch Egypt practice.

According to Egypt's football federation, the Chechen leadership sent a large cake to the team hotel on June 15 to mark Salah's 26th birthday, which coincided with the Pharaohs' 1-0 loss to Uruguay in their opening match of this World Cup, their first in 28 years.

Kadyrov lured Maradona, Luis Figo and Steve McManaman to Grozny in 2011 for an exhibition game marking the opening of a new 30,000 seat stadium.

Last year, Brazil's Ronaldinho posted photos of himself with Kadyrov during a visit to Grozny, and boxer Floyd Mayweather lavishly praised Kadyrov while they were being filmed together in the Chechen capital.

The Egyptians were leaving Grozny on Saturday for Volgograd, where they will play Saudi Arabia in their last group match on Monday. Both teams have already been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

LONDON, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool and Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah is helping to break down Islamophobia in his adopted home, according to the Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.

The Egypt international had a huge impact on the field in his debut season at Anfield, scoring 44 goals as the team finished fourth in the Premier League and were Champions League runners-up.

But his influence was felt just as significantly off it as a high-profile Muslim, energising the local Arabic community and helping improve inclusivity.

“I think what Salah’s done is what John Barnes did for the black community in the ‘80s,” Rotheram told a BBC Radio 5 Live documentary Mo Salah: Football is Life.

“He’s starting to break down barriers. Some of them (Liverpool fans) probably don’t fully appreciate the songs they sing about Mo Salah but to have that breakdown of Islamophobia caused by one person is an absolutely phenomenal achievement.

“His legacy will be much more about what’s happened off the field as well as what’s happened on the pitch.”

Eleven-year-old Rawan Zadeh, the daughter of a British Iraqi, for example, was inspired to take up football, having never played before, because of the Egyptian.

“My daughter wasn’t a football fan but now she is a fan of Mohamed Salah and his team,” Rawan’s mum Malath Ali said.

“She has changed completely and started playing football as well at school as a result.

“I’ve always encouraged her to play any kind of sport, it doesn’t matter if you are wearing a (head) scarf, so now she likes to play football.

“I feel as if he has an influence on the kids.”

Zane Abdo, Muslim adviser and chaplain to the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, has seen how Salah has changed perceptions.

“It is like what Muhammad Ali did in the boxing world, albeit very different people, in terms of getting people to accept who he is and accept the name,” he told Press Association Sport.

“Mohamed Ali and Mohamed Salah – and Mo Farah – have all done that. It challenges a lot of the stereotypes.”

 

MOSCOW, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Mohamed Salah will not leave the World Cup early despite Egypt's elimination from the competition with one group game remaining, the country's Football Association has said.

Salah returned from an injury suffered in the Champions League final to feature in the 3-1 defeat against Russia on Tuesday, a result that ended their participation in the tournament and led to reports that he could be released before the final group game against Saudi Arabia on Monday.

However, Egyptian FA president Hany Abo Rida said Salah would not be leaving early in order to recover from his injury.

"I have no idea about Liverpool," he said. "But we have our captain Mohamed Salah and, under the rules, FIFA requires him to be inside his camp and requires him to stay with his team.

"He is happy to mingle with his teammates and he was shocked by what the press has written about him and denied it all on social media.

"We're all perplexed by what has been published and have no idea where it came from."

SAINT PETERSBURG, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Mohamed Salah is set to return to action on Tuesday night as Egypt take on Russia in the 2018 World Cup.

The Liverpool forward is in contention to play a part in the Pharaohs’ crucial group-stage encounter with the tournament hosts, having sat out their opening fixture with Uruguay as he continued to recover from the shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper said: ​"Salah is fit. We always carry out a last physical test before we announce our line-up and today we will have an important test for him to see how he does. I think he will be able to play. He is an essential piece in our team."

He continued: "He's a great player, a crucial player, that much is perfectly clear. Salah is one of the best players in the world. For me there's no shadow of a doubt there. It's an honour and a privilege to coach him.

"On top of being talented, he is humble. He is a team player and that at least for me is extremely important now. He's an important player for us. Nobody can deny that. I say it with all due respect to the other players in the Egyptian squad... I think he'll be able to play."

Egypt take on Russia in Saint Petersburg, with kick off set for 8pm Cairo Local time.

 

MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - Egyptian and Liverpool player Mohamed Salah sent a message to Egyptian fans, saying he is ready for Egypt's second group match against Russia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Salah uploaded a video on his instagram account, saying: "You might think the pressure of all these people on me to score would form a load that could destroy any player," adding that he does not see it this way, stressing those people are the source of his strength and creativity and are not a load on him.

He said when he goes down the field they are with him and this makes him 100 million times stronger.

Egypt was defeated 1-0 by Uruguay in its first match of group A of the world cup, while Saudi Arabia lost 5-0 to host Russia.

Salah is expected to play the match between Egypt and Russia on Tuesday.

 

ST PETERSBURG, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Egypt's Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.

The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.

Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.

Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.

However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.

"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.

"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".

Most important game

If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.

Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.

With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.

"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.

"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."

Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.

And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.

"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."

Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.

 

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