The April 22, 2018 selection of Egyptian soccer star Mohamed Salah, who plays for Liverpool, as recipient of the English Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award for 2017-18 caused elation in Egypt. Thousands in his home province celebrated in the streets, and in his village the residents jammed the coffee houses to watch to the award ceremony. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi congratulated Salah, saying: "I send congratulations to the son of Egypt Mohamed Salah for his achievement, that fills [us] with pride, and highlights the amazing Egyptian capabilities in all areas. I am proud of him and of everyone who waves the name of Egypt on high."
Egypt's top religious authority, Al-Azhar, also released an announcement congratulating Salah and depicting him as an ideal model of conduct appropriate for a loyal servant of Islam.
Egypt's pride in Salah's success is a frequent topic in the Egyptian press; his achievements are followed by articles praising him, calling him an Egyptian pharaoh, and depicting him as a national symbol.
The "cartoon corner" of the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' honored Salah with an April 25 cartoon that stated: "Abu Makka:Mo Salah, England's Best"
However, along with the effusive expressions of admiration for Salah, the Egyptian press also published articles taking the opportunity of Salah's selection as player of the year to criticize the laxity, amateurism, unprofessionalism, and even racism that they say is rampant in Egypt's educational and sports system. They noted that Salah has gotten to where he is today because he left Egypt, which instead of cultivating its citizens' talents, makes the citizens want to emigrate. One article came out against some Egyptians' and Muslims' conviction that Salah's success is due to the fact that he is a believing, pious Muslim, saying that he is a success because of his persistence and hard work – values prevalent in the West that are nonexistent in culturally backward Egypt.
The following are translated excerpts from these articles:
Egyptian Liberal: Salah Succeeded Through Hard Work, Persistence, And Professionalism – Which Egypt's Culture Lacks
In his April 23, 2018 column in the Al-Watan daily, liberal Egyptian journalist Khaled Montaser spoke out against the Egyptians who attribute Salah's success to his being a believing Muslim, and added that such statements attest to Egyptian society's backwardness. He wrote:
"Mohamed Salah's award is an award for effort, persistence, [and] determination... [His] award is the essence of the journey called 'confront despair and frustration, and without a doubt you will succeed.'
"Did Mohamed Salah succeed because he made an effort, or because he prostrated himself in prayer after every [one of his] goal[s]? This question has come up in the reactions [to his award] by the millions who bring religion into everything. Some attributed it to his prostrating himself... others attributed it to his being a pious Muslim who named his daughter Makka [Mecca], and so on. The important question is: Had Salah remained in Egypt, and prostrated himself and prayed all his life in the shadow of the Egyptian unprofessionalism, lax training, diseased sports medicine, and amateur coaches who base [their methods] on the approach of 'trust in Allah... and we will win' ... would Salah have gotten to where he did?!
Salah prostrates himself in prayer on the field after scoring a goal (Source: Facebook.com/AlazharObserver, April 28, 2018)
"Mohamed Salah succeeded because he got into the right system – a system that [in contrast to the Egyptian system] leaves no room for trickery, wishes, reliance [on Allah], blessings and miracles, slaughtering a calf, visits to the tombs of holy men, bringing religion [into sports], using racist language, and attempting to bind the wounds of inferiority with the bandages of religious fanaticism... [This has reached] the point where one broadcaster has already appointed him an ambassador of Islam – as if he [Salah] were in a battle [against the infidels], not in a game or a competition. This mixing [of religion and sports] is a manifestation of cultural backwardness, and confirmation that we are a society that has not yet matured, a society still in the stage of religious adolescence...
"The award is for Mohamed Salah, and we all, as Egyptians, rejoice in this win. But the award is also for [Western] civil secular society that gave it to a dark-skinned Egyptian Muslim without considering his religion, skin color, race, or nationality – a civil society that tests and rewards [people] according to [their] effort, talent, and persistence.
"The elation could have been twice as great had the [Egyptian Christian] boy Mina, who was rejected by a bearded coach [because he was Christian], been crowned [in Egypt] the best Egyptian player. [It could also be twice as great] when we become a country that brings [players with Christian names] such as Jurgis, Michael and Luka to the team, with no sensitivities, where neither the spectators nor the coach will express anger against, punish, or publicly ostracize a Shi'ite, Bahai, or Jewish player because of his free choice of and personal connection with the God in Whom he believes.
"Mohamed Salah's award attests to the corruption and weakness of our educational system. How did he get through all the stages of Egypt's educational [system] without any teacher noticing his quick intelligence?. I am not talking about him as a good soccer player – only about noticing his intelligence, as it later became evident from his ability to pick up foreign languages, and to integrate into Western society... All these [traits] reflect emotional flexibility and psychological and social capabilities that went unnoticed at the time [i.e. when he was growing up in Egypt?] and that were left to the hand of chance to be discovered by others...
"Laziness, trickery, and perception of lying as routine have become chronic Egyptian ills that we must tackle so that we are fit to be included on the map of the civilized world – just as Mohamed Salah is now included on the map of world sports."
Egyptian Columnist: Egypt Persecutes Its Talent Instead of Cultivating It
Faraj Isma'il, columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun, attributed Salah's success to his move from Egypt to Europe. Calling the systems in Egypt corrupt, he wrote that they prevent the country's abundant talent from flourishing, but also that, Salah's success attests to the Egyptians' great potential, which is the country's great hope. He wrote:
"Mohamed Salah was chosen Player of the Year for the English Premier League [sic, Professional Footballers' Association] after he racked up a huge number of records during his first season with Liverpool. There is no doubt that this wonder player has mightily changed how some people perceive soccer, which they already do not consider to be an opiate of the masses and a means of distraction from real problems but as an example of diligence ...
"Salah's talent was not created in England or outside Egypt. He was born talented, but talent alone is not enough. It must be honed, developed... so that it can flourish and actualize all that Allah intended. Many talents were born in Egypt but pushed aside, and the world never noticed it because they never found the proper environment. They were buried, and disappeared, because of human jealousy and enmity, and because of the predetermined appointments [to senior official posts] of people who have backing but lack talent – at the expense of those who are skilled and talented in their fields... Many scientific geniuses have left us for countries that know how to appreciate them and honor them, and facilitate their path to excellence; as a result, they have succeeded and won great fame, bringing blessings and benefits to the countries that gave them citizenship.
"[While] the Egyptian environment persecutes real talent, it is also fertile ground for it, and we ask Allah that it not someday lose its fertility because of many elements... first and foremost the political elements, the closemindedness, fanatical singlemindedness, and the hidebound media...?
"Ask any Egyptian, now, what he wishes for, and he will tell you immediately that he wants to emigrate to any other country. This is not out of hatred for Egypt, which he loves... but out of desire to distance himself from the difficulties that he experiences from the time he opens his eyes in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, [difficulties that] are not the result of effort, sweat, and fatigue... but of pressure from the persecuting environment.
"Not only is Mohamed Salah an example of a talented soccer player, the best in Egypt's history, but he has also taught us all not to lose hope in our country's ability to awaken from its lengthy slumber and actualize what it is coming over a century late to achieve.
"[Egypt] has in its depths no petroleum that will one day be consumed, and no skyscrapers built at huge cost, but only latent human talent that no other place in the world has. [What is] needed [to unveil it] is only sunlight, political and social openness, and ejecting the corrupt – instead of ejecting the truly talented."
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 23, 2018.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 24, 2018.
 Facebook.com/AlazharObserver, April 28, 2018. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7442, Jordanian Columnist: Muslim Football Stars Playing In Europe Help Combat Islamophobia, Improve Image Of Islam, April 25, 2018.
 Salah's daughter Makka was born in 2014.
 Mina Essam, 13, an Egyptian Christian boy who had passed several soccer admission trials, was denied entry to an admissions trial for the Egyptian Al-Ahly soccer club by goalie coach Ikrami Al-Shahat (who is bearded). The boy's father told the media of the incident in August 2016, saying that the rejection was because of his religion, which Al-Shahat denied. Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Egypt, August 20, 2016; Madamasr.com, July 20, 2017.
 Al-Watan (Egypt), April 23, 2018.
 Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), April 23, 2018.