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Mohamed Salah might be the best bloke in the world

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A couple of years ago, radio duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee claimed they’d found “the best bloke in the world” when they called a random Aussie who agreed to be a reference for Blake, reported News.com.au (Australia).

Lee called then-23-year-old James Lord pretending to be a prospective employer and Lord proceeded to talk up Blake’s go-getting attitude, his ability to speak multiple languages and his budgeting skills — despite knowing nothing about him.

Well, we reckon Lord has met his match in the good bloke department in the form of Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah.

The 26-year-old is to Egypt what Sachin Tendulkar was to Indian cricket. That is, the man who carries the hopes and dreams of an entire nation on his back — a nation with a population of more than 96 million people, if you don’t mind.

Partly, it’s because of his mercurial talent. Salah has just come off a record-breaking season for Liverpool in which he scored 32 goals in 36 appearances, surpassing the mark for most goals by an individual in a Premier League season (31).

He found the back of the net 11 times as he led the Reds in their charge to the Champions League final — the most goals ever scored by a Liverpool player in a European campaign — and he was named the Premier League’s Player of the Month three times last season — the first player to achieve the feat.

It’s those numbers that added to Egyptian fans’ shock when he went off in tears with a dislocated shoulder in the first half of last month’s Champions League final, which Liverpool lost to Real Madrid. How could the country possibly make an impact at the World Cup without its talisman?

That fear came to life when Egypt suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Uruguay in its tournament opener as Salah watched on from the bench.

But according to reports, he’s set to start in Wednesday morning’s (AEST) must-win clash against Russia. He’ll shoulder the burden of Egypt’s entire World Cup campaign — even if he’s only got one good shoulder to do so — because if his side fails to gain at least a point, it’ll be bye-bye Egypt.

But as we alluded to, it’s more than just Salah’s exploits with a ball at his feet that have made him a national hero. He too, can lay claim to being the world’s best bloke.

When the goalscoring extraordinaire was playing in Egypt, his family was robbed. When the perpetrator was caught days later, Salah’s father wanted to press charges — but Salah didn’t.

Instead, in a touching act of kindness towards a stranger, he gave the thief money and helped him find a job, according to the Daily Mail. That’s just the kind of guy he is.

The UK publication also reported his kind deeds in the town of Nagrig, where he was born and raised, saying he provided gym equipment for a community centre now named after him and paid for an all-weather football pitch at the school where he studied.

Childhood friend Mohamed Bassyouni grew up with Salah and spoke of his selfless nature.

“He still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids,” Bassyouni told the Mail. “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.”

Salah’s contribution to the place he once called home is immeasurable. According to a report by The Sun in April this year, Salah “paid for the first ambulance in the area and has bought expensive medical equipment that helps dozens of people every day”.

“The Liverpool star is even funding construction of a youth centre, girls’ school and medical centre.
“In his hometown he has earned the nickname ‘happiness maker’.”

The stories from those who have benefited from the football star’s countless acts of kindness are themselves too many to number — even taking into account the exaggerated ones that aren’t necessarily true.

But even those tales that are too good to be true illustrate just how significant the growing legend of Salah is to a country often fighting with political instability and economic hardship. It makes it easy to see how Salah finished runner-up in the Egyptian presidential elections this year — despite not even running for office.

More than one million voters reportedly crossed out the names of both candidates on the ballot paper — President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his sole opponent Moussa Mostafa Moussa — and wrote Salah’s name instead.

And it’s not just in his home country where Salah has made an impression. Endearing himself to the Liverpool faithful with a series of matchwinning performances, theNew York Times reports the Reds cheer squad came up with the following rhyme to celebrate its curly haired hero: “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too.”

But regardless of what happens on the pitch in Saint Petersburg for those 90 minutes starting at 4am on Wednesday morning, Egypt knows Salah’s legacy will live on.

As a report in The Guardian several days ago pointed out, at a time where good luck stories are hard to find, “Salah is the rags to riches story the country needs”.

The head of Egypt’s parliamentary youth and sports committee Farag Amer told the publication: “Mohamed Salah is really important because he is a symbol.”

Egyptian football fans will he hoping he symbolises a winning team on Wednesday morning. Salah is the key to his side’s chances of advancing past the group stage, but whatever the result, nothing will dim the country’s appreciation for the man who has already given it so much.

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