Mohamed Salah - From The Bridge to the Barracks?
Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah has recently been in the news for a very disturbing reason, as the 22-year-old faces the prospect of being drafted into the Egyptian Army for between one and three year's service, despite a binding professional contract with an overseas football club.
Now whilst one isn't feigning ignorance of the entrenched traditions, rules and decrees that make it mandatory for Egyptian males[and probably females too?] to serve in the military for a set period of their lives, it beggars believe why the ideologically pro-West new president Abdel al-Sisi's government would want professional footballers — not least foreign-based ones who serve as ambassadors of Egypt abroad — as soldiers.
I mean, I really do not get the prevailing gist of the matter; is Egypt at war somewhere that they have run out of troops where the thought, never mind action or intended action, of drafting anyone and everyone with Egyptian blood flowing through their veins into the military would make a semblance of sense?
It would be recalled that Egyptian and the world press has recently been inundating Chelsea Football Club and its fans with fears that the youngster who only arrived West London from Swiss outfit FC Basel last winter in an £11m deal could be facing the possibility of a three-year career hiatus for a compulsory military service, and just this morning The Express in its Sunday issue is reporting that "the Minister of Higher Education in Egypt has rescinded [Mohamed] Salah`s participation in an 'educational programme'", which was the basis for his stay in England.
Of course, newly inaugurated president al-Sisi, who on assumption of office in June wasted no time in aligning with the US and other Western allies in peace efforts to stem the wave of terrorism in Iraq and other parts of the troubled Middle East and has to the admiration of the world drawn up a peace plan for Israel and Palestine, is increasingly becoming the bastion of hope for peace in the Middle East so it is a mystery why his military is expanding; what his government is doing or intending to do with professional footballers as soldiers is rather baffling.
In the meantime, while there is yet minimal hope that Mohamed may be exempted from what might essentially turn out a journey of no return, thus truncating his burgeoning football career, one can only hope it isn't too much of a stretch to hope that Egypt can make a paradigm shift from its obsolete anti-human rights traditions and balance its legitimate concerns regarding security and stability — both political and economic — with a commitment to uphold human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of association and choice, if not a deliberate enactment and nurturing of a human feel to governance and freedom for all Egyptians at home and in diaspora.
There's always an exception to a rule. Hence, let Mohamed Salah play football, please.