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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah hasn’t forgotten where he’s from

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Anfield craved in his first half-a-season
The flying winger is his..

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  • Mohamed Salah has become the hero Anfield craved in his first half-a-season
  • The flying winger is his club and the Premier League's top scorer this season
  • In Egypt the Liverpool star's popularity has gone off the scale this year
  • He scored a late penalty to send his nation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia
  • From humble beginnings in Nagrig, he has become world football's latest star

By Dominic King for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:30 EST, 21 December 2017 | Updated: 20:23 EST, 21 December 2017

Let us begin on the field of dreams. It is Monday lunchtime and we are in Nagrig, a small farming village tucked away off the main route that connects Cairo with Alexandria.

Down a dusty path that splits a field of jasmine, the scent of which lingers in the air, nine little boys are playing football.

The pitch, scorched and bobbly, is squashed in between a row of flats — some are in disrepair, others have been left half-built — the local mosque and a community centre.

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Liverpool fans craved after 20 goals in first 26 games

Mohamed Salah has become the hero Liverpool fans craved after 20 goals in first 26 games

The Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi LeagueThe Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi League

The Liverpool star made his way to the top after beginning his journey in the Pepsi League

This is where the local children come to enjoy themselves and be free. Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy and, today, they have never been more proud.

It is from these humble beginnings, after all, that world football's latest star emerged. This is the home of Mohamed Salah.

To walk around these quiet streets, you would not think it possible for someone to embark on such a thrilling journey but Salah, the eldest of four children, played on that same pitch, a two-minute walk from his family apartment, believing he could emulate his idols Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Francesco Totti.

Now this generation believe they can emulate him.

Salah has given many things to Nagrig. He bought gym equipment for the community centre that now bears his name and paid for an all-weather football pitch to be built at Mohamed Ayyad Al-Tantawy school, where he studied.

He gives money to help couples get married and frequently contributes to charity. More than anything, he has given hope.

Nine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, NagrigNine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, Nagrig

Nine young children play football on a dusty pitch in Salah's place of birth, Nagrig

Salah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine ZidaneSalah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane

Salah played on this same pitch as he dreamed of emulating Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane

The pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartmentThe pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartment

The pitch where kids still play is just a two-minute walk from Salah's family apartment

'He still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids,' says Mohamed Bassyouni, a childhood friend.

'He comes here, he plays table tennis and pool. When he comes back, he signs every autograph, stands for every picture. He hasn't changed.'

'Here' is the cafe that Bassyouni owns but 'cafe' will not give you the right image.

Think of a big garage with a wall missing, next to a football court, that has a large TV to show games from Europe. But it is charming and is still one of Salah's favourite places.

'He was always going to go far,' Bassyouni continues. 'Why? The left foot! Always left foot! He was so quick, so clever.

'We all used to play together. His brother, Nasr, would join us but we couldn't get the ball from Mohamed. We knew he could get to the top.'

The question Salah faced was how he would get there. It is hard enough getting down the pot-holed bumpy roads from Nagrig to Tanta, the nearest big town, but how would he fulfil his aim?

The answer arrived in the form of the Pepsi League, a competition organised by the drinks company for schools. Arab Contractors FC (El Mokawloon) have scouts and subsidiary clubs all over Egypt and they spotted him playing in Tanta when he was 14. He was invited to train with them in Cairo.

Salah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kidsSalah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids

Salah still comes back to Nagrig, every Ramadan, to present prizes to local kids

Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happyNagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy

Nagrig might be economically challenged but its people are friendly and happy

Some days his father would take him on the five-hour, 200-mile round trip. Other days he had to get five buses.

The long days and tiring journey would not deter him and soon enough he was invited to stay. Zamalek and Al-Ahly are Egypt's biggest clubs but Arab Contractors believe in youth.

They have lodgings built into the main stand of their Osman Ahmed Osman stadium to motivate those with aspirations of playing at the top and we are given a tour of the facility. Salah's simple room, 510, overlooked the pitch.

They recall him being 'hadi' (the Arabic word for 'quiet', which crops up frequently), someone who would do his work and then retreat for the evening after having his favourite meal of soup, barbecued chicken and green salad.

On Merseyside Liverpool's players are well aware that a perfect day for him is spending time with his wife, Magi, and daughter Makka.

'Mohamed was willing to sacrifice everything,' says Hamdi Nooh, a former Egypt international who was Salah's first coach at El Mokawloon.

A sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreenA sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreen

A sticker of Salah in front of the Liverpool crest is stuck onto a car windscreen

'When he came, it was too much left foot. I looked at him and said, 'You have to use your right'. He replied, 'OK, sir!' Always the same answer, always polite.

'The next morning, he is there: practise, practise. I told him how to change from being an amateur to a professional and to get to the top level.

'The more you practise, the more you will become famous, the more you'll earn. But you have to carry on when you're not here.

'I called his father when he used to go home. I told him to keep a timetable: no staying up late to watch TV. No getting out of bed late. He didn't.

'He lived as he should. He would pray and then go to sleep early. I am not the man who made him but I know he listened to me. He listened to everyone.'

Yet the journey from Egypt to Europe owed something to another key figure at the club.

Before becoming Egypt's Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab was El Mokawloon chairman.

A cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite placesA cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite places

A cafe, with a wall missing, shows games across Europe and is one of Salah's favourite places

A sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroomA sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroom

A sticker of Salah during his Roma days is stuck high on the wall of this bathroom

It has been reported Salah turned down a move to Zamalek in 2011, but what is not known is that both Zamalek and Al-Ahly returned with offers for Salah a year later. Mahlab wouldn't consider doing business.

'Mahlab felt he belonged at a club in Europe,' says Alaa Nabil, El Mokawloon's academy director and a former assistant coach of Egypt. 'He was convinced he would succeed.

'Salah was anxious about leaving Egypt, but Mahlab knew he would do it. Now he is a megastar.'

His arrival at Basle in Switzerland would prick the attention of Liverpool scouts in 2013. They watched him in all the important games, particularly in the Europa League against Tottenham and Chelsea.

There were missions to watch him in training camps.

Then Chelsea signed him in 2014, but Liverpool continued to follow Salah, through spells at Fiorentina and Roma, chief scout Barry Hunter, Dave Fallows, the head of recruitment and sporting director Michael Edwards were adamant Liverpool should act if the chance arose.

Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at ChelseaSalah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at Chelsea

Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in England after an unsuccessful stint at Chelsea

It was discovered Salah felt he had 'unfinished business' in the Premier League after difficulties at Stamford Bridge and when it was put to Jurgen Klopp — who had also long been a Salah fan — at the end of 2016 that Liverpool should pounce, the verdict was unanimous.

What has happened since his arrival in June has been beyond all expectations, but there is more to it than just 20 goals from 26 games.

Salah is becoming the hero the Kop had craved and, back in Egypt, his popularity has gone off the scale. He carries the hopes of a nation, the bond between player and fans cemented when he scored a last-minute penalty against Congo in October to send Egypt to a first World Cup since 1990.

'Salah had a hand in all seven goals that took us to Russia — two assists, scoring five of his own,' Mahmoud Fayez, Egypt's assistant manager, explains.

'The penalty? It was one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. But we all trusted him. The day before we played Congo, I called him.

'I told him, "You are the one for the penalty kick if we get one". The first thing he did was practise. Three or four penalties. When he did it for real, it was amazing. The emotion was incredible.'

Salah was offered a villa as a reward by Mamdouh Abbas, a former president of Zamalek. But the player asked that a donation be made to Nagrig instead. And there is another tale that has not been told.

Salah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World CupSalah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World Cup

Salah is lauded after his stoppage-time penalty sent Egypt into next year's World Cup

While Salah was playing in Alexandria, his family were robbed. The thief was caught a couple of days later and it was the intention of Salah's father to press charges.

When his son heard what happened, however, he asked him to drop the case. What happened next gives you the biggest insight of all into his character, as Salah gave the thief some money to get his life up and running and tried to help him find a job.

Salah wants everyone to have a chance to better themselves and that it is why the Egyptian is uniting a nation.

'He is doing an extraordinary job,' Fayez says. 'The secret of his brilliance? It is his modesty.

'He is a superstar but he lives as a simple person. He uses his abilities to serve his country and you can see what it means to him when he sings the national anthem.

'He fights every second, every moment, every sprint, every tackle, every shot. He fights. This is Salah. This is why he is the hero of every Egyptian.'

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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