A CNN report claiming that football star Mohamed Salah is considering quitting the Egypt national team after garnering media criticism over receiving an honorary Chechen citizenship was shunned by the team’s PR head, Osama Ismail.
Pictures and videos of Salah walking beside Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov surfaced on Friday and sparked controversy. The president also hosted a banquet on Saturday during which he honored Salah and gave him the Chechen citizenship.
Kadyrov is known for his intolerance of any movement that incites separatism from Russia since he took office in 2004.
“Mohamed Salah is an honorary citizen of the Chechen Republic! That’s right!” The Chechen leader wrote in a social media post. “I gave him a copy of the order and a pin at a celebratory dinner that I gave in honor of the Egyptian team.”
When the pictures and videos of the Chechen president honoring Salah spread, media sources criticized the use of the star as propaganda. According to CNN who cited a source that they said was close to the Liverpool forward, Salah expressed his annoyance at being used as a political symbol and does not want to be associated with any topic outside the realm of football.
However, Ehab Lehita, the Egyptian team’s manager, denied the claims in a press statement sent to CNN and added that the Liverpool star did not mention any intention of retiring from the team.
Russia Today also cited Egyptian national team’s head of public relations, Osama Ismail, who denied the CNN report as well.
“Mohamed Salah is at the camp and training with his teammates. He has been at all matches. He has not expressed any unhappiness to any officials. There hasn’t been any mention of anything like that,” Ismail told Russia Today by phone from Chechnya. “He is here - eating his dinner next to me right now.”
Salah made his debut, after being compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, when his remarkable skills help lead Liverpool to the Champions League for the first time since 2007.
Salah sustained injuries to his shoulder three weeks before the World Cup during the Champions League final when Sergio Ramos tackled the Egyptian star to the ground. The injury resulted in him missing Egypt’s first game against Uruguay.