Mohamed Salah and the Maccabi Tel Aviv handshake furore surrounding Chelsea's latest signing

Chelsea’s new signing accused of snubbing opposition before match

In Switzerland, the sale of Basel winger Mohamed Salah to Chelsea means that they will at least be spared one controversy looming next month: the question of whether the player would shake the hands of the Maccabi Tel Aviv players before their forthcoming Europa League tie.

Salah, 21, has been an outstanding, if occasionally frustrating, talent since the Egyptian was brought to Basel from the Cairo club El Mokawloon after the suspension of football in his home country following the Port Said stadium disaster. He brought himself to the attention of Chelsea with his goals home and away against them in Basel’s two shock wins against Jose Mourinho’s side in Champions League group E.

The bigger picture, however, is the allegation that he avoided shaking hands with the Maccabi Tel Aviv players in Basel’s two-legged Champions League qualifier against the club in the summer.

Following widespread suggestions he would not shake hands with the Maccabi team before the first leg in Switzerland in July he moved to the side of the pitch and changed his boots while the pre-match handshakes took place. Under even greater scrutiny a week later in Tel Aviv, he offered a fist-pump rather than a handshake to the line-up of Maccabi players.

Chelsea are owned by Roman Abramovich, one of the highest-profile Jewish people in British public life, who is a staunch supporter of the state of Israel. So too is director Eugene Tenenbaum, a key aide of Abramovich. The club sought assurances that Salah had not made anti-Israel remarks attributed to him, which he has consistently denied having said.

As a replacement for the departing Juan Mata in the Chelsea squad, albeit a very different player, Salah represents an exciting prospect. What the club do not require is any further controversy.

The Salah handshake saga became a major issue in Swiss football in the build-up to the first leg against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Basel. He had been placed under pressure by public opinion in his home country not to shake hands with the Israeli club’s players.

In the event, Salah preoccupied himself with changing his boots at the side of the pitch while the two teams went through their Uefa-prescribed pre-match handshakes. Given that few players disobey or skip the strict Uefa protocols, it was regarded in many quarters as a direct snub to the Israeli team. His club maintained afterwards that it had been a “coincidence” and that no snub had been intended.

With pressure growing around his response in the return leg a week later, Salah was obliged to clarify that he would play in Israel following suggestions that he would not travel there. In Tel Aviv he gave a press conference to distance himself from anti-Israeli remarks attributed to him.

The footage of the handshakes before the second leg game shows Salah at the end of the line of Basel players. Having shaken hands with the referee and his assistants he offered a fist-pump rather than an open hand to the Maccabi players, most of whom reciprocated with an open hand. He was booed by the home fans for the rest of the match.

Having eliminated Maccabi 4-3 on aggregate, with Salah scoring in the 3-3 draw in Tel Aviv, the Swiss side progressed into the Champions League. Finishing third in their group behind Chelsea and the German club Schalke in December, they were placed in the Europa League round of 32 where they drew Maccabi Tel Aviv again.

Salah’s progress has been rapid since he was scouted in Egypt where he made his professional debut as a 17-year-old. He is part of a prolific talent development system at Basel under the club’s sporting director, Georg Heitz, and president, Bernhard Heusler, which has launched the careers of the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, now at Bayern Munich, and that of the Croat Ivan Rakitic. Heitz and Heusler were key to the negotiations over Salah.

Salah won a Swiss Super League title last year in his first season at the club, albeit with his form inconsistent in that first season. This year he has proved more effective for his club and is a key player in the Egypt national team, which failed to qualify for the summer’s World Cup finals. In the Premier League, he will find himself under even more scrutiny than before.

Related stories...
Mourinho hopes Mata will do well for United
Rooney row is factor in third party deal for Mata
Manchester United's most expensive signings... were they worth it?
Are Manchester United about to sign to most effective midfielder in the Premier League?
Chelsea will regret selling Mata to United - Wenger
Chelsea gazump Liverpool with rapid move for Salah
Mohamed Salah and the Maccabi Tel Aviv handshake furore
Player profile: Who is Mohamed Salah?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future