Egypt goalie slammed for move to Swiss club

Wife accused of insulting Islam for removing veil


Egypt's star goalie Essam al-Hadary is drawing flack for leaving his home team Ahli without giving notice to pursue an international career with Swiss club Sion after his huge success in last month's African Cup of Nations tournament.

Hadary – named the best goal keeper in Africa following Egypt's capture of the African Cup – is said to have signed with Sion despite having two years left on his contract with Al Ahli.

He is being sued by his Egyptian club, who are demanding his immediate return. Hadary, known as "The Wall" has a three year contract with his home club, starting January 2007.

But the star keeper justified the move, saying FIFA regulations allow a player who is over 28 years old to unilaterally terminate his contract without paying any compensation for the remaining time.

Adding to his troubles, a picture of Hadary's wife appearing in public in Switzerland without the veil has also drawn criticism back home.

Religious watchdog group Hamasna ("Our Enthusiasm"), which led the International Campaign for Defending Hijab a week ago, issued a statement urging Hadary's wife Sabrine to put the veil back on.

"We understand that the situation of Muslim women in the West is a special case, but she has to amend what she did before other players' wives follow her example," the statement read. "She must realize that her husband is a player in Egyptian national football, and they are a religious team."

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar has issued a fatwa – religious ruling – saying that Muslim women living in the West can take off the veil if required under local laws. The fatwa, issued in the context of the ban on the veil in educational institutions in France, sparked much controversy at the time.

Hamasna said it supports Hadary and wishes him luck in his new club. It added that he should continue to kneel in prayer when his team scores a goal and not feel awkward about performing the religious act on the field even with his new Swiss team.

"The God of Switzerland is the God of Cairo and the God of [Ghanaian city] Kumasi, the God of all the people," the group said.

Hamasna recently declined to add Egyptian Coptic (Orthodox Christian) businessman Naguib Sawiris to its list of "Enemies of the Hijab," saying he retracted his attack on veiled women and said he is not against the Islamic head cover or Islam.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).