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Jakarta Post

Soccer star Mo Salah gets level-headed support from Indonesian fans

  • Moses Ompusunggu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, May 30, 2018   /   04:51 pm
Soccer star Mo Salah gets level-headed support from Indonesian fans Liverpool's top scorer, Mohamed Salah (Reuters/Phil Noble)

The shoulder injury Egyptian soccer player Mohamed Salah sustained while playing for English giant Liverpool in the Champions League final last week, has sent shockwaves among global fans of the sport, including his Indonesian fans who love him, despite his name meaning “wrong” in Indonesian.

Analysts say Salah’s injury in the first half of the match was one of the major causes of Liverpool's painful 1-3 defeat to Spanish behemoth Real Madrid on Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine. Nicknamed Mo Salah, the top player has been the Reds’ top scorer with 44 goals in the past season.

Many fear that Salah's injury might diminish his chances of playing in next month's World Cup in Russia, which has prompted some people to overreact to the news.

The Evening Standard reported on Tuesday that Bassem Wahba, an Egyptian lawyer, had filed "a complaint" and a 1-billion-euro lawsuit against FIFA, the world's soccer governing body, for "the physical and psychological harm that [Real captain] Sergio Ramos gave Salah and the Egyptian people".

In Indonesia, Paundra Jhalugilang, owner of @bolatory, a popular Instagram account that posts soccer-related comments, said Salah was a rising star in Egypt because he helped Egypt get to the World Cup. But Indonesians had a different reason for supporting Salah, Paundra told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Indonesian soccer fans have always been keen followers of European soccer clubs. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi each has a huge following in Indonesia. But beyond Mo Salah's skills and celebrity status, the Egyptian player's religion has also made him a media darling in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

"Apart from his skills, Salah is phenomenal in the world, including Indonesia, for his attitude on and off the pitch, and for his [being] a devout Muslim," said Paundra.

Perceived as an ambassador of Islam in a continent where Islamophobia is growing, Salah is also celebrated in Indonesia because he has helped break the negative stereotype about Islam. Liverpool fans in the UK even have a special chant for Salah that goes: "Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, if he's good enough for you, he's good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I'll be Muslim too. He's sitting in the mosque, that's where I want to be."

However, an Indonesian fan's plan to protest Ramos’s "culpability" outside the Spanish Embassy in Jakarta on Thursday did not receive a warm welcome on social media.

The fan, Mohammad Dendi Budiman, called the planned protest "Aksi Bela Salah" (action to defend Salah). The name bears a clear resemblance to “Aksi Bela Islam”, which refers to a series of demonstrations that conservative Indonesian Muslims staged for causes ranging from demanding that former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be prosecuted for blasphemy, to supporting the Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar. 

Vice president Aditya Mahendra of Commercial & Communication BIGREDS, a Liverpool fanbase in Indonesia, denied any involvement or knowledge about Dendi’s plan, reported, and dismissed Dendi's claim that he was part of BIGREDS as false.

Paundra said that he had yet to see positive support for the so-called protest from fans, with some even calling it "excessive".

One fan thinks it's simply wrong.

"I hope this rally is not really happening. I don't know what foreigners would think about our people [if the rally took place]," said Instagram user @yasernuranhar08 in the comments of a related post uploaded by @plesbol, a popular Indonesian soccer account on Instagram.