Liverpool star Mohamed Salah and his Egypt team-mates were in a great mood as the squad trained on Tuesday on the eve of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Group A clash with the Democratic Republic of Congo amid the social media scandal involving midfielder Amr Warda.
The host nation have been put through their paces at Military Academy Stadium, Cairo. Javier Aguirre’s men opened the competition with a narrow 1-0 triumph against Zimbabwe.
They next take on DR Congo at Cairo International Stadium at 22:00 on Wednesday (midnight UAE).
Watch their lively training session above:
Research conducted by Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab has revealed an 18.9 per cent dip in hate crimes in Merseyside since the Egyptian was signed from AS Roma two years ago compared to the expected rate had he not.
His arrival has also seen anti-Muslim tweets from Liverpool fans halved.
“Taken together, the evidence points to Salah’s rise in prominence causing a decrease in hate crimes in Liverpool FC’s home county,” the report stated.
“The survey experiment suggests that these results may be driven by increased familiarity with Islam.”
“These findings suggest that positive exposure to outgroup celebrities can reveal new and humanising information about the group at large, reducing prejudiced attitudes and behaviours.”
Salah’s “charismatic” personality and talent on the field are deemed to have helped people accept Muslims given the Kop star’s open practice of his faith.
“Salah is often seen joking with his teammates with a signature grin, entertaining his young daughter on the sidelines, and respecting his opponents almost to a fault, for instance, by refusing to celebrate goals against his former clubs,” said the report.
Meanwhile, his lighthearted nature with his team-mates and genuine shows of affection for his loved ones may have also helped counter the perception of some people that Islam is threatening.
“By watching games, post-game interviews, promotional videos released by the club, and content on Salah’s social media pages, fans are exposed to rich information about Salah’s life on and off the field. Viewers see what a Muslim prayer looks like, perhaps for the first time, when Salah scores,” the authors wrote.
“Few Muslims in British public life have been as open about their Muslim identity, and are as well-liked, as Salah,” the research said.
“The public image of Salah as a hero of sorts, and the resulting normalisation of some Muslim identities practices, may have dampened the appetite for harassment and violence toward the city’s Muslims,” it added.
However, there has been some increase in anti-Muslim comments from opposition fans.
The study analysed the data of 25 police departments, between 2015 and 2018, 15 million tweets from followers of well-known English football clubs and took in the views of 8,060 Liverpool fans.
Researchers maintain that their findings were not part of a wider fall in crime in Liverpool – indeed, drug and public order offences had increased.
“Overall, we interpret these results to support the hypothesis that Salah’s arrival at Liverpool FC caused a decrease in extreme acts of bigotry,” they said.
Salah scored the opening goal in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League final on Saturday, only furthering his popularity in Liverpool.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been praised by manager Jurgen Klopp for being an inspirational figure after the Egypt international was named in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019.
The 26-year-old, a prominent Muslim, has become a role model not only for his home country but for the Arab nation as a whole.
That wider appeal outside of Liverpool-supporting fans earned him a place on Time’s list and he travelled to New York for a celebration gala dinner earlier this week.
“I’m very proud of that, because people in football, we are obviously on television, in newspapers a lot, and most of the time we don’t say very smart things,” said Klopp.
“But Mo is a very smart person and his role is very influential. He said a couple of really good things and inspired, hopefully, some people on one side to think about a few things, and on the other side he got other people aware of him.
“In the world at the moment, it is very important that you have people like Mo.
“It should not be his first job obviously, but it’s important that he has an opinion and that he makes his opinion public.
“I was completely fine, we always say football is not the most important thing in the world, but when you can prove it, you have to be there.”
Salah was excused a day’s training in order to make his trans-Atlantic trip but Klopp was not concerned about the effect it would have on his 23-goal forward.
“Travelling these days is no problem any more. It would be more of a problem if his car broke and he had to walk from here,” he added.
“He missed one session. Today he is in training and everything is fine again.
“I saw a few pictures, and he looked brilliant in his tuxedo. Wow. He met a lot of famous people. Mrs Targaryen (Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke), eh? She was there as well.
“If he’d have asked me maybe I would have joined him. It was very interesting and now he’s back, it’s all fine.”