“We will be more than ready to help him,” said Jose Mourinho, when asked about his Egyptian signing Mohamed Salah’s apparent refusal to shake the hands with the Israeli players of Maccabi Tel Aviv when playing for Basel last August. But my inquiries tell me that there is more to this story than the notion, as Mourinho put it, that the 21-year-old might not have been “respectful… to ethnicity”.
The sentiments many Egyptians hold for Israel left Salah under immense pressure to make some kind of political gesture against Maccabi last summer. Egypt waited and watched for one and the surprise for observers like the writer and journalist James Montague, a Middle East specialist, was that Salah desisted.
He appeared to avoid the challenge by tying his shoelaces. The Egypt manager, Bob Bradley, has spoken enthusiastically about Salah’s personality, Montague says. The Tel Aviv experience seems like a lot of pressure to heap on one who is barely a man. The faintest comparison with Nicolas Anelka seems incredibly far-fetched.