Mohamed Salah Transfer to Chelsea Throws Up Potential for Controversy

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

FILE - This is a  Wednesday, Sept.  18, 2013 file photo of Basel's Mohamed Salah, left, as he holds the ball away from Chelsea's Frank Lampard  during the Champions League group E soccer match between Chelsea and Basel at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, Sept.  18, 2013.  Chelsea said Thursday Jan 23, 2014 that it has struck a deal with Swiss club FC Basel to sign midfielder Mohamed Salah. The Premier League club says the Egypt international's move is subject to him agreeing to personal terms and completing a medical. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Mohamed Salah's arrival as a Chelsea player will undoubtedly go down as a major positive for the club when a deal is made official, but there's a chance the Basel maestro brings with him a hint of controversy.

The Daily Mail Online's Neil Ashton has raised the previously unexpanded issue of Salah's heritage and a potential conflict that the £11 million could even have with those from within the club.

Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

When playing against Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv during Basel's Champions League qualification campaign this season, Salah refused to shake hands with any of the opposition players.

In the first leg, he got out of the tradition by changing his boots when the rituals were taking place. Then, as the video below depicts, he attempted to get out of his hand-shaking duties by attempting a less amorous fist-bump during the return fixture:

At the time, it was unknown whether Salah would travel to Israel with his Swiss club, but The Times of Israel eventually revealed the winger would and quoted Salah saying:

I will fly to Israel. Football is more important than politics and it is my job.

In my thoughts I am going to play in Palestine and not Israel, and I am also going to score and win there. The Zionist flag won’t be shown in the Champions League.

As Ashton points out, Chelsea are a club with some deep Jewish roots of their own in the hierarchy, with owner Roman Abramovich, chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum all being of the Jewish faith.

Of course, Salah's day-to-day responsibilities at Stamford Bridge won't require him to strike up a relationship with any of the aforementioned trio, but affiliations of both a religious and national variety have been shown to have their impact in football.

Diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel have been under immense strain since the Arab-Israeli War broke out in 1948.

101GreatGoals show that, at the time of Salah's trip to Israel, there was serious attention around the event:

Salah's experiences with encountering new branches of society will have broadened dramatically in the last two years or so.

Having won his first international cap in 2011, the 21-year-old has since grown as a part of the Egyptian setup, and his 2012 move to Switzerland has provided opportunities to advance in the Europa League and the Champions League competitions.

Manu Brabo/Associated Press

Given their pulling power as one of the world's biggest clubs, Chelsea's squad is one of the most cosmopolitan in Europe.

Though pre-empting an issue that could eventually rise to nought would be wrong, there will undoubtedly be extra focus on Salah's arrival at Stamford Bridge, where surely Abramovich and Co. will want to greet him.


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