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Patrick Atack

England imports more of the Arab world's premier footballers

New Arsenal signing Mohamed Elneny on January 14, 2016 in St Albans, England [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2016

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London-based football club Arsenal have signed Egyptian Olympic footballer Mohammed Elneny, the latest Arab player to take part in top-flight English football.

A young Egyptian midfielder who began his career the North African country's premier league has made a life-changing move to one of England's most successful clubs, Arsenal.

Strong man Mohammed Elneny had a successful career lapying for Swiss club Basel, playing 91 times in three years.

There he won three Swiss super league trophies and the Swiss cup.

In 2012, he played in all four of Egypt's games at the London Olympics.

Long tradition

Elneny is not the first Arab footballer to take part in top-flight English football.

Egyptian trio Ahmed Elmohamady, Gedo, and Ahmed Fathy have all player for former Premiership team, Hull City in 2013.

Iraqi international Yasser Qasim played for minnows Swindon Town.

Mohamed Salah played briefly for Chelsea before moving to Italy's Serie A.

He won the hearts of many Chelsea fans for scoring a goal against North London rival Arsenal.

However, his time at the West London was fraught with prolonged negotiations with Egyptian authorities to ensure that Salah could avoid returning home for military service.

This was only abated after a meeting with the prime minister.
After one year at Chelsea, 13 appearances, and two goals, Salah was loaned out to Italian club Fiorentina, and from there he moved to Roma.

Another Egyptian, Mido, had somewhat of a pinball like career, playing for thirteen clubs in as many years.

During this time he made 49 appearances for Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

He also played for Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic, West Ham United, before ending his career with the lower league side Barnsley.

Unfortunately, his time in England was not always the happiest. Mido suffered racial abuse from fans, and was at times outspoken about the perceived inaction against the perpetrators.

Mido is now back in Egypt, managing his former team Zamalek.

'Desert Fox'

One Algerian success story in the English league was the French-born, Leicester City striker Riyad Mahrez who represented the "Desert Foxes" in the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

His impact on the Premier League has been substantial. Leicester are currently in second in the league, with Mahrez scoring 14 critical goals so far this season.

And who can forget Ali al-Habsi? The Omani goalkeeper became the first Arab to play in a FA Cup winner with Wigan Athletic. Although he stayed on the bench during the game was crucial in previous games to helping the North West underdogs lifting the trophy.

The former fireman now plays for Reading, and has been one of Oman's most famous and successful exports.

But it is not just on the pitch that Arabs are pursuing greatness in England. Four clubs in England’s four top-flight leagues are run or part-owned by Arabs. This includes one of England's most successful clubs, Manchester City, which is owned by Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour al-Nahyan.

Now a billionaire Jordanian - Hasan Abdullah Ismaik - is perched to buy Merseyside club Everton, it looks like Arabs will be playing a critical role in English football for years to come.

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