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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah hasn’t forgotten where he’s from

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Anfield craved in his first half-a-season
The flying winger is his..

  • Mohamed Salah has become the hero Anfield craved in his first half-a-season
  • The flying winger is his club and the Premier League's top scorer this season
  • In Egypt the Liverpool star's popularity has gone off the scale this year
  • He scored a late penalty to send his nation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia
  • From humble beginnings in Nagrig, he has become world football's latest star

By Dominic King for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:30 EST, 21 December 2017 | Updated: 20:23 EST, 21 December 2017

Let us begin on the field of dreams. It is Monday lunchtime and we are in Nagrig, a small farming village tucked away off the main route that connects Cairo with Alexandria.

Down a dusty path that splits a field of jasmine, the scent of which lingers in the air, nine little boys are playing football.

The pitch, scorched and bobbly, is squashed in between a row of flats — some are in disrepair, others have been left half-built — the local mosque and a community centre.

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Liverpool fans craved after 20 goals in first 26 games

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Liverpool fans craved after 20 goals in first 26 games

The Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi LeagueThe Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi League

The Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi League

This is where the local children come to enjoy themselves and be free. Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy and, today, they have never been more proud.

It is from these humble beginnings, after all, that world football's latest star emerged. This is the home of Mohamed Salah.

To walk around these quiet streets, you would not think it possible for someone to embark on such a thrilling journey but Salah, the eldest of four children, played on that same pitch, a two-minute walk from his family apartment, believing he could emulate his idols Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Francesco Totti.

Now this generation believe they can emulate him.

Salah has given many things to Nagrig. He bought gym equipment for the community centre that now bears his name and paid for an all-weather football pitch to be built at Mohamed Ayyad Al-Tantawy school, where he studied.

He gives money to help couples get married and frequently contributes to charity. More than anything, he has given hope.

Nine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, NagrigNine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, Nagrig

Nine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, Nagrig

Salah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine ZidaneSalah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane

Salah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane

The pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartmentThe pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartment

The pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartment

'He still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids,' says Mohamed Bassyouni, a childhood friend.

'He comes here, he plays table tennis and pool. When he comes back, he signs every autograph, stands for every picture. He hasn't changed.'

'Here' is the cafe that Bassyouni owns but 'cafe' will not give you the right image.

Think of a big garage with a wall missing, next to a football court, that has a large TV to show games from Europe. But it is charming and is still one of Salah's favourite places.

'He was always going to go far,' Bassyouni continues. 'Why? The left foot! Always left foot! He was so quick, so clever.

'We all used to play together. His brother, Nasr, would join us but we couldn't get the ball from Mohamed. We knew he could get to the top.'

The question Salah faced was how he would get there. It is hard enough getting down the pot-holed bumpy roads from Nagrig to Tanta, the nearest big town, but how would he fulfil his aim?

The answer arrived in the form of the Pepsi League, a competition organised by the drinks company for schools. Arab Contractors FC (El Mokawloon) have scouts and subsidiary clubs all over Egypt and they spotted him playing in Tanta when he was 14. He was invited to train with them in Cairo.

Salah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kidsSalah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids

Salah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids

Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happyNagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy

Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy

Some days his father would take him on the five-hour, 200-mile round trip. Other days he had to get five buses.

The long days and tiring journey would not deter him and soon enough he was invited to stay. Zamalek and Al-Ahly are Egypt's biggest clubs but Arab Contractors believe in youth.

They have lodgings built into the main stand of their Osman Ahmed Osman stadium to motivate those with aspirations of playing at the top and we are given a tour of the facility. Salah's simple room, 510, overlooked the pitch.

They recall him being 'hadi' (the Arabic word for 'quiet', which crops up frequently), someone who would do his work and then retreat for the evening after having his favourite meal of soup, barbecued chicken and green salad.

On Merseyside Liverpool's players are well aware that a perfect day for him is spending time with his wife, Magi, and daughter Makka.

'Mohamed was willing to sacrifice everything,' says Hamdi Nooh, a former Egypt international who was Salah's first coach at El Mokawloon.

A sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreenA sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreen

A sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreen

'When he came, it was too much left foot. I looked at him and said, 'You have to use your right'. He replied, 'OK, sir!' Always the same answer, always polite.

'The next morning, he is there: practise, practise. I told him how to change from being an amateur to a professional and to get to the top level.

'The more you practise, the more you will become famous, the more you'll earn. But you have to carry on when you're not here.

'I called his father when he used to go home. I told him to keep a timetable: no staying up late to watch TV. No getting out of bed late. He didn't.

'He lived as he should. He would pray and then go to sleep early. I am not the man who made him but I know he listened to me. He listened to everyone.'

Yet the journey from Egypt to Europe owed something to another key figure at the club.

Before becoming Egypt's Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab was El Mokawloon chairman.

A cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite placesA cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite places

A cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite places

A sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroomA sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroom

A sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroom

It has been reported Salah turned down a move to Zamalek in 2011, but what is not known is that both Zamalek and Al-Ahly returned with offers for Salah a year later. Mahlab wouldn't consider doing business.

'Mahlab felt he belonged at a club in Europe,' says Alaa Nabil, El Mokawloon's academy director and a former assistant coach of Egypt. 'He was convinced he would succeed.

'Salah was anxious about leaving Egypt, but Mahlab knew he would do it. Now he is a megastar.'

His arrival at Basle in Switzerland would prick the attention of Liverpool scouts in 2013. They watched him in all the important games, particularly in the Europa League against Tottenham and Chelsea.

There were missions to watch him in training camps.

Then Chelsea signed him in 2014, but Liverpool continued to follow Salah, through spells at Fiorentina and Roma, chief scout Barry Hunter, Dave Fallows, the head of recruitment and sporting director Michael Edwards were adamant Liverpool should act if the chance arose.

Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at ChelseaSalah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at Chelsea

Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at Chelsea

It was discovered Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in the Premier League after difficulties at Stamford Bridge and when it was put to Jurgen Klopp — who had also long been a Salah fan — at the end of 2016 that Liverpool should pounce, the verdict was unanimous.

What has happened since his arrival in June has been beyond all expectations, but there is more to it than just 20 goals from 26 games.

Salah is becoming the hero the Kop had craved and, back in Egypt, his popularity has gone off the scale. He carries the hopes of a nation, the bond between player and fans cemented when he scored a last-minute penalty against Congo in October to send Egypt to a first World Cup since 1990.

'Salah had a hand in all seven goals that took us to Russia — two assists, scoring five of his own,' Mahmoud Fayez, Egypt's assistant manager, explains.

'The penalty? It was one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. But we all trusted him. The day before we played Congo, I called him.

'I told him, "You are the one for the penalty kick if we get one". The first thing he did was practise. Three or four penalties. When he did it for real, it was amazing. The emotion was incredible.'

Salah was offered a villa as a reward by Mamdouh Abbas, a former president of Zamalek. But the player asked that a donation be made to Nagrig instead. And there is another tale that has not been told.

Salah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World CupSalah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World Cup

Salah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World Cup

While Salah was playing in Alexandria, his family were robbed. The thief was caught a couple of days later and it was the intention of Salah's father to press charges.

When his son heard what happened, however, he asked him to drop the case. What happened next gives you the biggest insight of all into his character, as Salah gave the thief some money to get his life up and running and tried to help him find a job.

Salah wants everyone to have a chance to better themselves and that it is why the Egyptian is uniting a nation.

'He is doing an extraordinary job,' Fayez says. 'The secret of his brilliance? It is his modesty.

'He is a superstar but he lives as a simple person. He uses his abilities to serve his country and you can see what it means to him when he sings the national anthem.

'He fights every second, every moment, every sprint, every tackle, every shot. He fights. This is Salah. This is why he is the hero of every Egyptian.'

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Australia

Saudi women in Sydney: Sisters’ bodies lay undiscovered for a month

Australian police are baffled after the bodies of two Saudi women, believed to have lain undiscovered for a month, were found in a Sydney apartment.

Sisters Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were found dead on 7 June in separate beds at home in the suburb of Canterbury.

Police, who were called to the property for a welfare check, said the women are believed to have died in early May.

But despite “extensive inquiries”, they still do not know how or why.

The sisters moved to Australia from Saudi Arabia in 2017 and may have sought asylum, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Police refused to confirm this, saying they do not comment on residential status.

A human rights organisation said it should be established whether the women fled Saudi Arabia because of domestic violence or harsh laws governing women. However, there is no evidence this is the case.

Police said they had been in contact with the women’s family, which is assisting them with inquiries.

Lina al-Hathloul, head of monitoring and communications at Saudi human rights organisation ALQST, said it “would not be the first case” of Saudi women who were killed abroad after fleeing domestic violence.

“There are no protections for women who are victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, so they flee abroad,” she told the BBC.

She added: “I’m not saying that is the case here, just that we need a thorough investigation. It is frustrating not to have any information.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there had been signs that something was wrong.

Last year, the women told their building manager they thought someone was tampering with their food deliveries, the paper reported.

A plumber who visited the apartment also said he believed there was “something mysterious” going on, and that police had been called in the past over concerns for the women.

New South Wales Police issued a renewed plea to the public on Wednesday, saying “any piece of information” could be the key to solving this case.

The local community is close-knit, police said in a statement, asking anyone who may have known or seen the women to come forward.

A report from Australian current affairs programme Four Corners in 2019 found 80 Saudi women had tried to seek asylum in Australia in recent years. Many of them were fleeing male guardianship laws.

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62331116

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Australia

Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world, but it’s a different story in the country’s politics, where 96% of federal lawmakers are white.

With this year’s election, political parties did have a window to slightly improve this. But they chose not to in most cases, critics say.

Tu Le grew up the child of Vietnamese refugees in Fowler, a south-west Sydney electorate far from the city’s beaches, and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.

The 30-year-old works as a community lawyer for refugees and migrants newly arrived to the area.

Last year, she was pre-selected by the Labor Party to run in the nation’s most multicultural seat. But then party bosses side-lined her for a white woman.

It would take Kristina Kenneally four hours on public transport – ferry, train, bus, and another bus – to get to Fowler from her home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she lived on an island.

Furious locals questioned what ties she had to the area, but as one of Labor’s most prominent politicians, she was granted the traditionally Labor-voting seat.

Ms Le only learned she’d been replaced on the night newspapers went to print with the story.

“I was conveniently left off the invitation to the party meeting the next day,” she told the BBC.

Despite backlash – including a Facebook group where locals campaigned to stop Ms Kenneally’s appointment – Labor pushed through the deal.

“If this scenario had played out in Britain or the United States, it would not be acceptable,” says Dr Tim Soutphomassane, director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner.

“But in Australia, there is a sense that you can still maintain the status quo with very limited social and political consequences.”

An insiders’ game

At least one in five Australians have a non-European background and speak a language at home other than English, according to the last census in 2016.

Some 49% of the population was born or has a parent who was born overseas. In the past 20 years, migrants from Australia’s Asian neighbours have eclipsed those from the UK.

But the parliament looks almost as white as it did in the days of the “White Australia” policy – when from 1901 to the 1970s, the nation banned non-white immigrants.

“We simply do not see our multicultural character represented in anything remotely close to proportionate form in our political institutions,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Compared to other Western multicultural democracies, Australia also lags far behind.

The numbers below include Indigenous Australians, who did not gain suffrage until the 1960s, and only saw their first lower house MP elected in 2010. Non-white candidates often acknowledge that any progress was first made by Aboriginal Australians.

Two decades ago, Australia and the UK had comparably low representation. But UK political parties – responding to campaigns from diverse members – pledged to act on the problem.

“The British Conservative Party is currently light years ahead of either of the major Australian political parties when it comes to race and representation,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

So why hasn’t Australia changed?

Observers say Australia’s political system is more closed-door than other democracies. Nearly all candidates chosen by the major parties tend to be members who’ve risen through the ranks. Often they’ve worked as staffers to existing MPs.

Ms Le said she’d have no way into the political class if she hadn’t been sponsored by Fowler’s retiring MP – a white, older male.

Labor has taken small structural steps recently – passing commitments in a state caucus last year, and selecting two Chinese-Australian candidates for winnable seats in Sydney.

But it was “one step forward and two steps back”, says party member and activist Osmond Chiu, when just weeks after the backlash to Ms Le’s case, Labor “parachuted in” another white candidate to a multicultural heartland.

Andrew Charlton, a former adviser to ex-PM Kevin Rudd, lived in a harbour mansion in Sydney’s east where he ran a consultancy.

His selection scuppered the anticipated races of at least three diverse candidates from the area which has large Indian and Chinese diasporas.

Party seniors argued that Ms Kenneally and Mr Charlton – as popular and respected party figures – would be able to promote their electorates’ concerns better than newcomers.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese also hailed Ms Kenneally as a “great Australian success story” as a migrant from the US herself.

But Mr Chiu says: “A lot of the frustration that people expressed wasn’t about these specific individuals.

“It was about the fact that these were two of the most multicultural seats in Australia and these opportunities – which come by so rarely – to select culturally diverse candidates were squandered.”

He adds this has long-term effects because the average MP stays in office for about 10 years.

The frustration on this issue has centred on Labor – because the centre-left party calls itself the “party of multiculturalism”.

But the Liberal-National government doesn’t even have diversity as a platform issue.

One of its MPs up for re-election recently appeared to confuse her Labor rival for Tu Le, sparking accusations that she’d mixed up the two Asian-Australian women – something she later denied. But as one opponent said: “How is this still happening in 2022?”

Some experts like Dr Soutphommasane have concluded that Australia’s complacency on areas like representation stems from how the nation embraced multiculturalism as official policy after its White Australia days.

The government of the 1970s, somewhat embarrassed by the past policy, passed racial discrimination laws and “a seat at the table” was granted to migrants and Indigenous Australians.

But critics say this has led to an Australia where multiculturalism is celebrated but racial inequality is not interrogated.

“Multiculturalism is almost apolitical in how it’s viewed in Australia,” Dr Soutphommasane says, in contrast to the “fight” for rights that other Western countries have seen from minority groups.

What is the impact?

A lack of representation in parliament can also lead to failures in policy.

During Sydney’s Covid outbreak in August 2021, Fowler and Parramatta electorates – where most of the city’s multicultural communities reside – were subject to harsher lockdowns as a result of a higher number of cases.

How will things change?

Liberal MP Dave Sharma, the only lawmaker of Indian heritage, has said all parties – including his own – should better recruit people with different backgrounds. He called it a “pretty laissez-faire attitude” currently.

Mr Albanese has urged Ms Le to “hang in there”, insisting she has a future.

But more people like Ms Le are choosing to speak out.

“I think I surprised a lot of people by not staying quiet,” she told the BBC.

“People acted like it was the end of my political career that I didn’t toe the party line. But… none of that means anything to me if it means I’m sacrificing my own values.”

She and other second-generation Australians – raised in a country which prides itself on “a fair go” – are agitating for the rights and access their migrant parents may not have felt entitled to.

“Many of those from diverse backgrounds were saying they felt like they didn’t have a voice – and that my case was a clear demonstration of their suppression, and their wider participation in our political system.”

She and others have noted the “growing distrust” in the major parties. Polls are predicting record voter support for independent candidates.

“This issue…. matters for everyone in Australian society that cares about democracy,” says Mr Soutphommasane.

“If democratic institutions are not representative, their legitimacy will suffer.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61432762

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Australia

Scott Morrison effectively ditches his promise to establish a federal anti-corruption commission

Scott Morrison has effectively abandoned his promise to establish a federal anti-corruption watchdog, confirming he would only proceed with legislation in the new parliament if Labor agreed to pass the Coalition’s heavily criticised proposal without amendments.

Morrison pledged before the 2019 election to legislate a federal integrity body in the parliamentary term that has just ended. The prime minister broke that promise, failing to introduce his own proposal before the 46th parliament was prorogued.

On the hustings on Wednesday, Morrison was asked – given his previous undertaking to create the body – whether he would promise to put his proposal to a vote in the next parliament in the event the Coalition won the 21 May election.

Morrison declined to make that promise. “Our position on this hasn’t changed,” the prime minister said. “Our view has been the same – when the Labor party is prepared to support that legislation in that form, then we will proceed with it.”

The prime minister has attempted to inoculate himself from criticism about breaking an election promise by saying he tabled the integrity commission proposal in the parliament.

Tabling an exposure draft, which is what the prime minister did, is not the same as introducing finished legislation to the House of Representatives or the Senate that is then debated and voted on.

As well as repeatedly fudging what happened in parliament, Morrison has also created the impression the proposal can only proceed if Labor agrees to its passage without amendments.

All governments routinely introduce legislation for debate without any undertaking that it will be passed by the opposition. Labor favours a stronger model than the Coalition’s proposal.

Morrison’s lack of urgency on the issue created tensions within government ranks. Late last year, the Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to support independent MP Helen Haines’ bill to establish a federal integrity commission. Archer accused the government of “inertia” over the issue.

At that time, Archer said she was “perplexed” at her own government’s failure to release a revised bill almost three years after it was promised before the last election.

While Morrison clearly wants to move on from the issue, he will face renewed pressure from crossbench independents if the coming election is close enough to deliver a hung parliament.

A number of independents running against Liberals in metropolitan seats have made it clear that establishing a credible national integrity commission will be a key demand in the event any new government – Liberal or Labor – is seeking agreements for confidence and supply.

Haines blasted Morrison’s comments on Wednesday. “Mr Morrison broke an election promise to introduce an anti-corruption commission and his pathway to creating one is still as vague as it was in the last parliament,” she said.

The crossbench independent said it was “nonsense” for the prime minister to claim that he could not proceed unless Labor agreed with the Coalition’s proposal without seeking any amendments. “It would appear we are in the same void as we were before,” Haines said.

Read from:https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/13/scott-morrison-effectively-ditches-his-promise-to-establish-a-federal-anti-corruption-commission

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