Chelsea’s new £15million signing Mohamed Salah has been told to “promote the best values of sport”, having refused to shake the hands of Maccabi Tel Aviv players while playing for his previous club in Switzerland.
The 21-year-old Egyptian midfielder refused to take part in the customary pre-match handshake when Basle faced Maccabi Tel Aviv in two Champions League qualifiers last July. And hoping there will be no repeat from the player, Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation, has called on the Football Association to warn the player against carrying out similar actions. He said: “There should be no place for the ugliness of bigotry in ‘the beautiful game,’ and that includes prejudice against Israeli players. We hope that Mohamed Salah will be able to use his new position in one of the biggest teams in the world to promote the best values of sport.
“However, we hope that the FA will make it clear to him that repetitions of his previous behaviour will be treated with the same seriousness as any other examples of racism.”
Salah made headlines last July when he refused to shake hands with the Maccabi players before both matches of their two-legged tie, staying on the touchline during the first game in Switzerland to tie up his boots, before ‘fist-bumping’ the Israeli players instead of shaking their hands in the return leg.
Prior to the game in Tel Aviv, he also reportedly at first refused to travel to Israel saying: “In my thoughts I am going to play in Palestine and not Israel, and I am also going to score and win there. The Zionist flag won’t be shown in the Champions League.” He has since insisted the comments were fictitious and that his actions were a result of external pressures.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Salah will grow as a player as a result of signing for his team, saying: “It’s not a concern, because we know the club Chelsea is, I know the manager I am.
“I know that Chelsea’s capable of helping people and making people feel the way we think people should feel, which in football and in life is to be open and respectful to every ethnicity, to every religion. People have the right to be what they are. Chelsea as a club and me as a manager, we will be more than ready to help him.”
Referring to the incident in July, he said: “We analysed the situation, we spoke with the player and his people. The situation put in front of him, aged 20, was not easy to resolve. He tried to find balance, which for us is not enough obviously.
“You know which owner we have, and the variety of players we have too. So this club is a fantastic club to help and to support a young 21-year-old to grow up.”
On completing his signing for the club, which is owned by Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, Salah said: “I’m very happy to sign for such a big club. I hope I can make the Chelsea supporters happy.”