The 2018 World Cup in Russia will mark Egypt’s third appearance at the finals of the competition, the last time the North African country made it beyond qualifying being 1990.
The penultimate game of the qualifying round was a landmark occasion for Egypt, as they were afforded the rare opportunity to secure qualification to the last 32 of the world’s premier footballing competition.
Fortunately for sports fans across the country, the Pharaohs grasped the opportunity with both hands and despite an immense test of faith and character they didn’t let go, sealing their passage in front of a capacity crowd at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Cairo.
In their first ever match against Congo on home soil, Egypt replicated the result they picked up in Brazzaville, beating their opponents 2-1 to secure their spot at the top of Group E, earning their place at the finals in Russia.
The last time such a feat was achieved, it was Hossam Hassan who put his name up in lights as the Al-Ahly striker scored the solitary goal across a two-legged tie against Group A winners, Algeria.
Now, just as Hassan put his name up in lights and secured his status as a national hero, so too has Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah after the winger’s last-minute penalty saw his country through to the World Cup.
And while qualification to the World Cup was a team effort, it cannot be understated just how important Salah was to Egypt’s push for qualification. Going into the final game of the round of qualifying, Salah tops Africa’s scoring records with five goals.
However, his contributions were not simply limited to scoring, as he assisted Egypt’s two other goals of the qualifiers, seeing him directly involved in every single goal his country scored throughout the qualifying rounds.
Such an influential player is worth his weight in gold for their national team, though few are capable of carrying their side to the World Cup finals (see the likes of Naby Keita, Alexis Sanchez, Gareth Bale et al.)
That is what sets Salah apart, he has shown the tenacity and guile to see his side through despite being burdened with the expectations of his country.
Dubbed the ‘King of Egypt’, Salah has more than lived up to that billing, bringing joy to his people and prosperity to his country via the medium of football.
To have the pressure of an entire nation on his shoulders when stepping up to take that last-minute penalty, and to show the level of composure and confidence that he did shows just how much of an asset he is to his team and, moreover, his country.
The man himself summed up what the penalty meant to his country incredibly eloquently via Twitter, saying: “the pen was to achieve 100 million dreams, maybe there’s too much pressure, but we rely on the support of 100 million to actually make it happen.”
Now, after fulfilling the dreams of those 100 million people, Salah has shown the full extent of his humble and giving nature after donating a luxury villa to the people of his home town.
When offered the gift of a villa by Mamdouh Abbas, the former president of Egyptian club Zamalek, Salah politely declined, saying it would make him happier if the villa was donated to Nagrig village in Gharbiya province.
Furthermore, Salah has had his former school in Bassyoun renamed after him in his honour, now dubbed ‘Mohamed Salah Industrial High School’, as well as a Nagrig’s youth centre being renamed in his honour.
Following the victory over Congo, his confidence and heroics on the pitch have been immortalised after he gave his nation a moment that will be vividly remembered for years, if not decades.