Salah, the idol of his Egyptian village

Mohammed Salah celebrates his goal in English premier league match [Photo: Courtesy]

Deep in Egypt’s Nile Delta region, the children of Nagrig village have a clear goal in life: they want to become football stars like Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer and Africa’s top player.

Salah, who comes from their village, has been one of the sensations of the Premier League since joining Liverpool - his goal in the victory against Southampton on Sunday was his 29th of the season.

Further enhancing his status as a national hero, Salah played a key role in leading Egypt to the World Cup finals in Russia later this year.

Tomorrow, his talent will be on show in the Champions League as Liverpool tackle Porto.

Mohamed Abdel-Gawad, 12, gazes in admiration at the three-storey house where Salah was born and raised, which overlooks a narrow dirt road like most of the houses in the village, about 120km (75 miles) north-west of Cairo.

“I hope to be like Mohamed Salah when I grow up,” Abdel-Gawad said.

“Mohamed Salah has become a professional player because of his ethics and humbleness.”

An inspiration

In Nagrig as well as in Basyoun, the closest town, the youth centres were renamed after the Egyptian star.

Fully aware that his success has become an inspiration for children in Egypt and Africa, Salah addressed them in his acceptance speech when he won the African Player of the Year accolade in January, telling them: “Never stop dreaming, never stop believing.”

Salah’s journey, figuratively as well as literally, was anything but easy.

“His talent clearly showed from the beginning,” said Ghamri Abdel-Hameed el-Saadani, who was the juniors coach at the Nagrig Youth Centre, where Salah started training at the age of eight.

Still, Salah’s success is not just due to his talent. “It’s also a product of a will of steel, effort, and determination,” said Saadani.

Village mayor Maher Shateyya, a family friend, bursts with pride when he talks about Nagrig’s most famous son.

“Mohamed was only 14 when he joined the Arab Contractors Club in Cairo, and had to spend nearly 10 hours a day in transport to make it to and from practice,” said Shateyya.

While at Chelsea, Salah failed to break into the first team. He went to Italy (Roma) before he signed a deal with Liverpool that could eventually be worth 44 million pounds (Sh6.1 billion).

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