Egypt FA blames Muslim Brotherhood for poor World Cup performance, Mo Salah crisis
The head of the Egyptian football federation has blamed the poor performance of the national team during the World Cup in Russia on the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Hany Abo Rida made the comments to local news website al-Watan on Tuesday, amid accusations that star striker Mohamed Salah was used for political purposes at the tournament.
"The Brotherhood had a major role in the problems the national team faced during the World Cup, primarily regarding Salah," Abo Rida said.
Egyptian officials often blame the banned Islamist movement for various problems, without providing evidence for their claims.
Abo Rida also dismissed perceptions that 26-year-old Salah was used as a political tool while the squad was based in Chechnya.
"The football federation did not force Salah to meet with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov," he stressed.
He added that Kadyrov's political advisors had warned him that moving the team's base would negatively affect Egyptian-Russian relations, when he had voiced sponsors' concerns.
Egypt lost all three matches in Russia, crashing out of its first World Cup since 1990 and causing an outcry back home over the team's performance and the federation's management.
On Sunday, Salah gave his first public indication of his disagreement with the federation over the team's use of Chechnya as a base during the ill-fated World Cup campaign
"Some might think it's over but it isn't over. There needs to be change," Salah wrote cryptically on his Twitter account.
The Egyptian federation, particularly its chairman Hany Abo Rida, was the target of the tweet, a person close to Salah told The Associated Press on Monday.
Two federation officials said that teammates pressured Salah into attending a banquet hosted by Kadyrov for Egypt's World Cup squad.
They said Salah wanted to stay away, arguing that being seen with Kadryrov would hurt his image.
He went only after being warned that not attending could trigger a diplomatic incident between Egypt and Russia.
Recent reports that Salah is considering retiring from international play have emerged, sparking controversy.
The Egyptian government blacklisted the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation and launched a harsh crackdown on its supporters and leaders after the ousting the country's first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi - a member of the group - in July 2013.
The crackdown has extended to other opponents of then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected a year after Morsi's overthrow.