Clamouring to watch Salah
Doha – Qatar’s large Egyptian community is clamouring to welcome their country’s “icon” Mohamed Salah (below) when he comes to the Gulf this week as Liverpool kick off their Club World Cup campaign.
But a regional diplomatic crisis has frustrated travel plans for fans based in Egypt and complicated the desire of expats in Doha to celebrate their country’s bestknown player.
The Egyptian diaspora in Qatar number around 300 000, according to official statistics, out of a total population of 2.75 million.
For many years, Qatari authorities sought out skilled Egyptian migrants to staff a range of sectors from oil and gas to teaching and the health system.
But an economic and travel embargo on Qatar by a Saudi-led coalition that includes Cairo has cooled Doha’s enthusiasm for mass migration from Egypt.
The two-year-long effort to isolate Qatar stems from accusations that Doha backs radical Islamists and has sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia’s arch rival Iran.
Doha vehemently denies the charges.
Egypt and Saudi, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, closed their airspace to Qatar Airways and banned travel to the country.
Large numbers of Egyptians gathered in the Souq Waqif tourist bazaar to watch Liverpool’s 5-2 trouncing of Everton in the Merseyside derby.
In a market cafe, other Salah fans called the 27-year-old Arab soccer talisman “an icon for many”.
Today they will have a chance to watch Salah in the flesh when the Reds face Mexico’s Monterrey in their semifinal at the Khalifa International Stadium.
British newspapers have reported that Liverpool have received assurances from Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, that Salah’s visit to the Gulf monarchy will not be politicised. – AFP