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The New Arab

Saudi minister's tweet angers Egypt football star Mo Salah fans

Salah is the English Premier League's leading goalscorer with Liverpool [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2018

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Saudi Arabia's sports minister enraged supporters of Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah, in the official's latest brush with controversy.

Saudi Arabia's sports minister has angered sports fans after he made a comment about Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah, in the official's latest brush with controversy.

Turki al-Sheikh made the offending remark on Twitter on Friday, hours after Portugal carried out a stunning defeat of a Salah-inspired Egypt in a pre-World Cup friendly.

Salah appeared to have won the game for Egypt with a 56th-minute goal, but Cristiano Ronaldo struck back with two stoppage-time headers that some Portugal earn a dramatic comeback win.

"Let us miss him ahead of the World Cup," Sheikh said, jokingly implying that Salah not playing in the World Cup would be beneficial for the Saudi team.

Fellow Arab teams Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been placed together in the same World Cup group, along with hosts Russia and Uruguay.

Many football fans - Saudi and Egyptian alike - have reacted angrily to the minister's comment.

"If Salah gets badly injured there will be a lot of suspicion surrounding you, and Egyptians will give you no mercy," said one Saudi Twitter commenter.

Another user said: "We reject this comment from a man who supposedly represents the state towards a player beloved by Egyptians."

The minister has come under fire recently over a series of comments he has made online.

This month, he hinted Saudi Arabia would not support Morocco in its bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, likely over Rabat's neutral stance in the diplomatic crisis between a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries and Qatar.

Sheikh has also called on FIFA to strip Doha of the 2022 World Cup if the emirate was "found guilty of ethics violations".

Qatar is under a blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Liverpool player Salah, the English Premier League's leading goalscorer, earned himself a special place in the hearts of Egyptian football fans and among the Anfield faithful.

His late match-winning penalty for Egypt against the Congo last October secured World Cup qualification for Egypt for the first time since 1990.

A popular Saudi cleric this month praised Salah for being a good representative of Islam in the West, pointing to the striker's practice of kneeling down on the pitch to thank God after scoring.

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