Cairo: A famous Egyptian Muslim cleric has come under fire after he suggested that an injury of Egypt’s football icon Mohammad Salah was a divine punishment for his fans.
On Saturday, Salah sustained a shoulder injury in a tough challenge from Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine. Real Madrid won the game 3-1.
Salah left the pitch in the 30th minute of the match due to the injury that raised doubts about his chance for playing with the Egyptian national team in next month’s World Cup in Russia.
Cleric Mohammad Jibril criticised Salah’s fans, who skipped the nightly tarawee prayers, done in Ramadan, in order to watch the Champions League final.
“God punished them by the butcher and wrongmaker Ramos who injured the player,” Jibril posted in a tweet that infuriated Salah’s fans.
“OK, our Shaikh. If this were true, what wrong did respected and well-mannered Salah do? Allah is fair and doesn’t punish one person for others’ sins,” commented an Egyptian man calling himself the captain in a tweet.
Celebrated Egyptian TV host Wael Al Ebrashi also lashed out at Jibril.
“Jibril’s tweet is a tragedy. It is as if God had punished Egyptians by depriving them of Mohammad Salah. This is a wrong understanding of Islam,” said Al Ebrashi on private Egyptian Dream TV.
“Salah has done a bigger service to Islam than Shaikh Jibril,” added the anchor, accusing the cleric of being a sympathiser of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. “Backers of the Brotherhood do not want the Egyptian people to rally around a player or an asset.”
Salah led Egypt to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
In recent months, the 25-year-old professional has garnered a cult status in Egypt due to his brilliant football skills, humility and charitable deeds in the homeland.
Jibril later removed his much-maligned tweet and said it was misunderstood. “I pray to Allah that captain Mohammad Salah will recover, protect him from any harm or evil, and that he will participate with the national team in the best form,” the cleric said in a new tweet.
After his injury on Saturday, Egyptians turned to social media voicing grief over Salah’s injury and accusing Ramos of deliberately targeting him. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi also called Salah and expressed support for him.
Salah will fly from Britain to Spain to complete treatment for the injury under Liverpool’s supervision, according to Egyptian Sports Minister Khaled Abdul Aziz.
The head of the Egyptian Football Association and the doctor of the national team are due to travel to Spain on Wednesday to check on Salah’s health.
The minister expected Salah to join the national team, known as the Pharaohs, in Cairo early next month before they leave for Russia for the World Cup games.
“Mohammad Salah is in very high morale especially after the unprecedented interest shown by Egyptians, notably President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi,” Abdul Aziz wrote on his Facebook page late Monday.
The Pharaohs will play Paraguay in their first World Cup match on June 15.
Salah had a sensational season in Liverpool, scoring 32 goals in 38 English Premier matches and winning the Player of the Year prize. Salah has netted a total of 44 goals in all competitions this season, a feat that has made him a global football legend.