Encircled by expectant cheers of Egyptian fans, Mohamed Salah appeared at the Pharaohs’ final pre-World Cup training session and kindled hopes he that has overcome injury to aid Egypt’s first shot at the tournament in nearly three decades.
He arrived Egypt from Madrid on Wednesday, with his family after receiving medical treatment for the shoulder injury he sustained in the UEFA Champions final in Kiev.
On Saturday, the Liverpool’s star striker, strolled around the Cairo pitch talking to colleagues and supporters, but did not take part in the team’s last late night practice before heading to Russia.
Horns blasted, snack-sellers hollered and chants of “Come, Salah, Come Salah!” rang through the capital’s stadium, crowded by thousands of fans keen to encourage their team ahead of their first World Cup appearance since 1990.
Salah, who hit a stunning 44 goals for Liverpool last season following his move from Roma, is the linchpin of Egyptian hopes in Russia.
He has been picked for the World Cup squad despite having been forced out of the Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in tears clutching his left shoulder.
Many of his fans had feared he would miss the World Cup altogether, but his appearance in Cairo has reignited expectations in The Pharaohs’ key striker.
“He will participate, God willing, he must,” said Seif Ibrahim, a 24-year-old salesman wearing Salah’s Egypt jersey.
At a later meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Salah gave the assurance he would participate in the World Cup.
Fans screamed in delight when Salah’s name was read out over the loudspeaker, while those able to get to the pitch took selfies with their hero.
He gave fans a sliver of hope when he managed to briefly dribble the ball on the corner of the pitch, before returning to the sidelines.
“I was so sad, but now I’m happy to see him in real life, and he seems to be doing fine even if he isn’t actually training with the others,” said Nahed Mostafa, 38, who attended the session with her young children.