Previously hailed as a supporter of women's rights in the Arab world, Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah has now disappointed fans with comments regarding the recent controversy surrounding fellow national team player Amr Warda.
Following the widespread backlash against Warda, Salah weighed in on the matter via Twitter, where he insisted women should be respected yet asked people to forgive his teammate.
It all started when Dubai-based Egyptian model Merhan Keller shared several screenshots of conversations with 25-year-old Warda, who plays for Athens-based Atromitos F.C. The sexual advances, the pushy language, and the aggressive responses are but a few of the revolting attributes of the texts Warda sent Keller. Since then, several other women have come forward and accused Warda of similar actions.
In response, the Egyptian Football Federation issued a statement on Wednesday announcing Warda would not be participating in the national team's remaining matches at the AFCON 2019.
Meanwhile, Warda released a video, in which he said:
"I apologize for what I did. I apologize to my family, I apologize to [my fellow] players, I apologize to the Egyptian Football Association and to anyone who is upset at me or anyone I have upset, I am sorry."
According to his brother, Ziad Warda, the footballer has since rejoined the national team's training camp. However, the team's manager, Ehab Lehita, refuted the brother's claims and told Sky News Arabia the suspension is still in effect.
"We need to believe in second chances," Salah responded
Salah commented on the controversy with two tweets, starting off by emphasizing that men should respect a woman's decision to reject their advances. So far so good, right? Well, Salah's message soon got derailed.
To the dismay of many fans, he went on to rule Warda's actions as "mistakes" and called upon his followers to "believe in second chances" and "guide and educate [offenders]."
"Shunning is not the answer," he wrote.
While Salah did not explicitly mention he was addressing Warda's behavior, the subject of his tweets was unquestionably implied.
Salah's take on the matter stirred further outrage online, with many users accusing the Liverpool forward of undermining the gravity of sexual harassment. It is worth noting that Warda was reportedly kicked off the Greek team PAOK back in 2017 over accusations claiming he sexually harassed the wives of his teammates.
Salah's statements were all the more upsetting, given that he had expressed support for women in Egypt and across the Muslim world in an interview with Time Magazine earlier this year. In his interview with the magazine, Salah called for gender equality in the region and urged his compatriots to improve the way they treat women.
"We need to change the way we treat women in our culture," he said at the time. "I support the woman more than I did before because I feel like she deserves more than what they give her now, at the moment."