Mohamed Salah's Egypt image rights dispute resolved after 'major insult'
Mohammed Salah's claim that he was deeply insulted by an image rights dispute in his native Egypt prompted top-level political intervention to swiftly resolve the issue.
Salah had been upset that his image is featured prominently on the outside of the Egypt national team's plane, which was provided by official team sponsor WE. Salah has a sponsorship deal with rival telecommunications firm Vodafone.
"Sorry but this is a major insult ... I was hoping the handling [of the dispute] would be classier than this," Salah tweeted on Sunday.
Egypt President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was behind the order that the dispute be quickly resolved, said Farag Amer, head of parliament's youth and sports committee, on a television show late on Sunday.
Ramy Abbas, Salah's agent, had argued that the Egyptian Football Association and its sponsor, local advertising agency Presentation, had no right to use Salah's image without written consent from MS Commercial, Cayman, the company that owns Salah's image rights.
After Salah's tweet, his agent claimed separately that the federation had ignored his requests for clarifications over the issue. That triggered a massive outpouring of support on social media networks for the player.
Egypt's youth and sports minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz summoned the Egypt FA's board members for urgent talks, and said late on Sunday that they have agreed to meet Salah's demands.
"I assure everyone that we will stand by him to honour all the contracts he entered in England," Abdel-Aziz wrote on Twitter.
In comments later made to a popular television show, the minister said: "Consider that all the demands made by them [Salah and his agent] are met."
Abdel-Aziz also appeared to acknowledge that the federation was to blame for the dispute with Salah, saying it was likely that it did not have the expertise to deal with commercial issues relating to a player of his global status.
The Egyptian FA tweeted that chairman Hany Abou Rida told Salah on the phone: "Anything that annoyed you will stop. What is more important to me is that you and your teammates are relaxed so that you hold our heads high in the World Cup."
The dispute erupted six weeks before Salah leads Egypt at the World Cup, the country's first appearance at the tournament since 1990. It also comes ahead of Wednesday's match between Liverpool and Roma in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals, with the English team leading 5-2 from the first leg. Salah scored two goals and assisted another two at Anfield.
No sportsman in Egypt has ever commanded the adulation and respect Salah has enjoyed since joining Liverpool last year from Italian club Roma. With more than 40 goals this season, Salah has captivated the football-crazed nation of about 100 million people.
Hardly a day goes by without Salah on the front pages of Egyptian newspapers. He has sent Egyptians streaming to street cafes to watch him play for Liverpool and weaning them off their passion for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. To most Egyptians, he brings them happiness and pride at a time of great economic difficulties.
"I want to thank everyone for your support today," Salah tweeted on late Sunday. "In fact, your response was extraordinary and your interaction made me very happy."
The Arabic hashtag "I support Mohammed Salah" was widely used online, with hundreds of thousands of fans declaring their unwavering support for the player against the federation. Many of the tweets touched on politics, making references to widespread corruption and inefficiency.
When news of the resolution of the dispute broke, Salah humorously tweeted he was sorry to see "I support Mohammed Salah" hashtag go.
"Never mind about Twitter and focus on the next match [in Rome]," Egyptian comedian Mohamed Henedy tweeted in response, "and I promise you we will create a whole new Twitter for you, not just a hashtag."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.