Arab Athlete Condemned for 'Unsporting Behavior'

Mohamad Salah refused to shake hands with Israeli players before Champions League qualifier.

Ari Soffer ,

Soccer game (illustrative)
Soccer game (illustrative)
Flash 90

As Israelis and Jews worldwide finish celebrating the Maccabiah Games in good spirits, one Arab sportsman has sent a reminder of the kind of unsporting behavior that all too often dominates Middle Eastern competitions.

On Thursday, the British Jewish News website reported how Egyptian-born Mohamad Salah, who plays for Switzerland's FC Basel, found himself at the center of controversy after it emerged that he refused to shake hands with Maccabi Tel Aviv players during this week’s Champions League qualifying game.

The Arab player apparently went to great lengths to avoid the traditional pre-match handshake between the two teams by placing a pair of boots on the side of the pitch, and leaving to put them on as the two sets of players met.

Following the match, which FC Basel won 1 - 0, Salah's manager Murat Yakin said that he could be dropped for the return leg in Israel on Tuesday night.

“Politically, I don’t like to express myself, but if a player is not focused mentally, he’d better be left out, I think we have enough professionals in our squad to replace Salah," he said.

This is not the first time an Egyptian athlete has displayed "unsporting" behavior towards an Israeli opponent.

In June, during an international women's  wrestling event, Egyptian wrestler Enas Moustafa Youssef Khourshid bit her Israeli opponent Ilana Kartysh. After the match, Kartysh told Israeli media that Khourshid had also broken two of her fingers.

The Israeli wrestler still won that match, which resulted in a suspension for Khourshid.