Clam­our­ing to watch Salah

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport -

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

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