Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah will not be representing Egypt at the Olympics this summer, having been left off his country’s final squad list. It is news which is sure to come as a relief to Reds fans as selection would have meant Salah missing pre-season.
Men’s football at the Olympics is an age-restricted competition, but Egypt coach Shawky Gharib regularly spoke about including national hero Salah as one of three permitted over-age players.
Gharib confirmed as early as March that he intended to include Salah in the squad. The coach then publicly claimed just a month ago that Salah wanted to play in the Olympics, but Egypt appeared unable to obtain Liverpool’s permission.
As of mid-June, Gharib stated that Egypt were still awaiting a response from Liverpool regarding a request for Salah to be included in the final Olympics squad. But with the squad now confirmed and Salah not involved, it appears that permission was never granted.
Olympic football is not officially recognised by FIFA and so it doesn’t fall under the same rules as typical international football when clubs are legally obliged to release any player called up by their national team. When it is the Olympics, clubs have the right to refuse.
That was the case when Barcelona tried to block Lionel Messi from being called up by Argentina in 2008, only for Pep Guardiola to personally intervene to persuade the club to let him go. Barcelona could yet take similar action with regard to Pedri’s call-up by Spain. France also had to submit a revised squad after a number of players were denied permission by their respective clubs.
Egypt were regular Olympic qualifiers when it was strictly an amateur competition prior to 1992, but this summer is only their third time since it became a professional Under-23 tournament. They were knocked out in the group stage in 1992 and reached the quarter-finals in 2012.
This time, the north African nation have been drawn into a very tough group alongside Argentina, Spain and Australia, which means they will have to pull off a big shock early just to have a chance of progressing to the knockout stages.