Football has long acted as a platform for societal change, cultural influence and tolerance. This couldn’t be truer than for the experiences of Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson and Laurie Cunningham. True pioneers of the game both on and off the pitch, who, in the face of horrendous racial abuse, forced respect, racial equality and tolerance into the consciences of the blinkered in our society.
Fast forward to the 2017/18 season and I feel we are witnessing a similar phenomenon take place, this time in the form of a 25-year-old Egyptian, enter stage right; Mohamed Salah.
Salah has not simply been a goal scoring wizard, a master playmaker and tireless hard worker for Liverpool, he has been an unexpected sociological meteorite in English football. Exhibiting a persona which warrants as much respect as his footballing talent does; humble, incredibly charitable and a calming presence – Mohamed Salah is a fine ambassador for not just football, but Islam too. And it is this that I feel his arrival in the Premier League could not have come sooner.
Mohamed Salah is a fine ambassador for not just football, but Islam too.
Recent terror attacks in London and Manchester have threatened to divide and create rifts in our society. In these times of panic and despair, we have been in danger of allowing our anger and confusion to blur our perceptions of reality, which can corrupt our conscience and lead us to pointing the finger towards the entire Muslim community of which the perpetrators came from.
Yet, I feel Salah has acted as an unexpected uniting force, an unlikely champion of Islam in these challenging times, revolutionising our perceptions of Islam with his graceful presence. The Liverpool chant “if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim to’, though jovial in intention, lays evidence to desires of improved integration in our society. And it is emerging out of football.
On top of this, I can’t help but feel that Merseyside is playing a key role in this movement. A region that has spearheaded tolerance and pioneered cultural change for decades, you need look no further than the Beatles as well as the boycott of the Sun newspaper to see the what this region stands for and why Merseyside is indeed the ideal platform for this resurgence of hope.
If this Salah phenomenon has taught us anything, it is that football is so much more than a game, it’s an institution of moral conduct and a cornerstone for standard setting. There is no doubt in my mind we will look back on Mohamed Salah and see him not only as one of the finest footballers of our time, but also as a force for change, tolerance and progressiveness of which British society has a lot to learn from.