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‘Salah not just a player but an Ambassador’

Africa footballer of the year hot favorite Mohamed Salah is not just a footballer but can also pass as a philanthropist of with soft spot for the down trodden and needy. The Liverpool super star that began his soccer career from a humble beginning has not forgotten how and where he started despite his rising profile.
In fact he started on a dusty pitch in Nagrig, 80 miles north of the Egyptian capital of Cairo.                          
This is where the local children come to enjoy themselves and be free. Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy and, today, they have never been more proud.
It is from these humble beginnings, after all, that world football’s latest star emerged. This is the home of Mohamed Salah.
To walk around these quiet streets, you would not think it possible for someone to embark on such a thrilling journey but Salah, the eldest of four children, played on that same pitch, a two-minute walk from his family apartment, believing he could emulate his idols Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Francesco Totti.
Salah has given many things to Nagrig. He bought gym equipment for the community centre that now bears his name and paid for an all-weather football pitch to be built at Mohamed Ayyad Al-Tantawy school, where he studied.
He gives money to help couples get married and frequently contributes to charity. More than anything, he has given hope.
‘He still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids,’ says Mohamed Bassyouni, a childhood friend.
‘He comes here; he plays table tennis and pool. When he comes back, he signs every autograph, stands for every picture. He hasn’t changed.’
Mohamed Salah has become the hero Liverpool fans craved after 20 goals in first 26 games
It was discovered Salah felt he had ‘unfinished business’ in the Premier League after difficulties at Stamford Bridge and when it was put to Jurgen Klopp — who had also long been a Salah fan at the end of 2016 that Liverpool should pounce, the verdict was unanimous.
What has happened since his arrival in June has been beyond all expectations, but there is more to it than just 20 goals from 26 games.
Salah is becoming the hero the Kop had craved and, back in Egypt, his popularity has gone off the scale. He carries the hopes of a nation, the bond between player and fans cemented when he scored a last-minute penalty against Congo in October to send Egypt to a first World Cup since 1990.
‘Salah had a hand in all seven goals that took us to Russia — two assists, scoring five of his own,’ Mahmoud Fayez, Egypt’s assistant manager, explains.
‘The penalty? It was one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. But we all trusted him. The day before we played Congo, I called him.
‘I told him, “You are the one for the penalty kick if we get one”. The first thing he did was practice.  Three or four penalties. When he did it for real, it was amazing. The emotion was incredible.’
Salah was offered a villa as a reward by Mamdouh Abbas, a former president of Zamalek. But the player asked that a donation be made to Nagrig instead. And there is another tale that has not been told.
While Salah was playing in Alexandria, his family was robbed. The thief was caught a couple of days later and it was the intention of Salah’s father to press charges.
When his son heard what happened, however, he asked him to drop the case. What happened next gives you the biggest insight of all into his character, as Salah gave the thief some money to get his life up and running and tried to help him find a job.
Salah wants everyone to have a chance to better themselves and that it is why the Egyptian is uniting a nation.
‘He is doing an extraordinary job,’ Fayez says.  ‘The secret of his brilliance?  It is his modesty.
‘He is a superstar but he lives as a simple person. He uses his abilities to serve his country and you can see what it means to him when he sings the national anthem.
‘He fights every second, every moment, every sprint, every tackle, every shot. He fights. This is Salah. This is why he is the hero of every Egyptian.’

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