Mohammad Salah’s tears flowed around the world after his injury in the Champions League final. Twitter’s servers temporarily gave out under the weight of messages wishing Salah well (or wishing the opposite to Sergio Ramos). In Egypt, Salah’s injury induced a rare moment of unity: hopes for his speedy recovery are perhaps the only thing President al-Sisi and the Muslim brotherhood agree on.
Salah’s example transcends Egypt. In Britain, he has been credited with inspiring new understanding and sympathy for the country’s Muslim communities. Liverpool fans jokingly chant that if he scores another goal, then they too will become a Muslim. Yet there are two sides to every story and Salah’s is no exception. His second arrival in Britain coincided with a spike in the number of hate crimes reported in Britain. For many British Muslims, post-Brexit Britain is a less tolerant, less understanding place than it was just a few years ago. It is this climate of hostility that, somewhat paradoxically, created the need for a saviour narrative for which Salah’s rise has been timely.
One might equally stop to question why Salah’s strike partner Sadio Mane is not celebrated in anywhere near the same manner as Salah. After all, he is “a Muslim too” and by all accounts, every bit as devout as his Egyptian counterpart. Perhaps the fact that Salah, an Arab North African, looks more like our stereotype of a Muslim males makes him a more viable poster boy than Mane, a black West African.
Some of the contributions to the second issue of Midfield Generalities complicate and question received wisdom. Others shine a light on the unusual, the liminal, the underreported and underrepresented. From North America to South Korea, the ConIFA World Cup to the FIFA World Cup, all, in their own unique ways, show the importance of new perspectives on the world’s favourite pastime.