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Liverpool’s Salah is the idol of his Egyptian village

Mohamed Salah

Cairo, Egypt | AFP | 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 hails 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.

On Wednesday 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 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Cairo.

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

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

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 more widely, 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.”

While the house of the player’s father, Salah Ghali, resembles others in the village, it was quieter: no-one was looking out of an open window, and no clothes hung from the house.

The village has been the focus of huge media interest as Salah has risen to stardom, but family members at his house in Nagrig refused to talk to reporters “out of respect for his wishes”.

– Gruelling daily journey –

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.

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