A positive development for Egyptian football, says Salah fans

Updated: Jun 03, 2019, 12:22 IST | AFP |

"That penalty was not right in the first minute. He should have gone to the VAR. Liverpool were undeserving but it's good progress for Tottenham to get this far," he said

Fans take a selfie with the Liverpool logo in the background in Cairo, Egypt. Pic/AFP
Fans take a selfie with the Liverpool logo in the background in Cairo, Egypt. Pic/AFP

Egyptian football fans were overjoyed on Saturday as Liverpool were crowned European champions after winning 2-0 against their English counterparts Tottenham Hotspur. Coming in as favourites, the Reds sealed the win and their sixth European Cup in a grinding game after Divock Origi fired home the team's second goal in the 87th minute. Those gathered erupted with joy in unison after Mohamed Salah converted a penalty to open the scoring as early as the second minute. "I'm happy that Salah won because he's our son" said Seif Hegi, 21, a university student from Cairo. "The match was like a typical Premier League game, that was highly defensive...but it's a huge feat because no other Egyptian footballer has achieved this before," he told AFP surrounded by throngs of boisterous fans in a bustling cafe.

"This is a positive development for Egyptian soccer," he added. In a busy laneway in an upmarket suburb packed with cafes and cacophonous cries from ardent Liverpool fans, some 400 Egyptians cheered loudly with every touch of the ball for national icon Salah. He is due to represent the North African heavyweights in the Africa Cup of Nations later this month. The slow moving match with a few chances picked up momentum in the last 20 minutes with more attempts at goal for both teams. One of the few Spurs supporters in the Reds-dominated crowd Antoine Philip, 25, who works in an insurance company, was critical of the referee's performance. "That penalty was not right in the first minute. He should have gone to the VAR. Liverpool were undeserving but it's good progress for Tottenham to get this far," he said.

'You'll never eat alone'
In anticipation of the final, other Egyptians paid tribute to the Reds feasting at the "Liverfuul" cart which serves up hot dishes of "fuul" (fava beans) in Ain Shams, a working-class suburb of Cairo. Mohamed Ahmed, 31, a DJ turned street food entrepreneur, came up with the idea with friend Mohamed al-Sayed before the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of daytime fasting due to end next week. The cart, which only operates between 11 pm and 3 am, is emblazoned with Sayed's red and green design - after the Liverpool football club logo. Liverpool's legendary anthem has been amended on the cart to read: "You'll never eat alone." "There's no one who doesn't love Salah. We're avid football fans so the idea clicked one day while we were sitting around, and the response has been huge from the locals," he told AFP. "As Egyptians we like to get together, especially during Ramadan, and have a communal meal. So the tagline came naturally and Sayed designed it perfectly."

Ahmed Adel, a 25-year-old engineer, spotted photos of the cart on Facebook in early May and has been a regular customer. He is circled every time by dozens of hungry patrons in a carnival-like atmosphere of loud music and football commentary on flat screen televisions. Named after Liverpool's Swiss star, Shaqiri-sterma, a mix of eggs and pastrami, is his favourite. A dish named "Mo Salah" is also on the menu. "The food is great and the atmosphere is friendly," he said. Ahmed, the food cart operator, said he was happy that his business had become a gathering point for the club's fans in the capital Cairo. "I'm a winner either way, it's not just about money for me," he said. "The first week of business we were running at a loss, but with word of mouth and social media, it has really picked up," Adel added. He was proven right in Liverpool being crowned European champions against first-time finalists Spurs. It came 12 months after they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid in last year's final in which Salah went off injured.

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