Cairo: “May God punish you, Ramos!” Egypt’s newspaper Al Watan roared on Sunday with a banner headline, lashing out at the Spanish defender blamed for seriously injuring Egyptian superstar Mohammad Salah.
“Ramos, the butcher dislocated Abu Salah’s shoulder!” proclaimed Al Masry Al Youm, an influential Egyptian newspaper.
The frontpage headlines echoed Egyptians’ sentiments after the injury raised doubts about Liverpool Superstar Salah’s chances of appearing at Russia World Cup that marks the Pharaohs’ return to the finals after 28 years.
“Anyone who understands football knows that Ramos deliberately injured Salah,” tweeted Mido, Egypt’s former star.
Whether the coffee shops, which were packed with Salah’s fans on Saturday night, or on social media, the sense of despair was unmistakable.
“Ramos carried out the mission perfectly and eliminated Abu Makkah,” Ahmad Mahmoud, an Egyptian fan fumed, using a nickname of Salah.
“Real [Madrid] knew that Salah is the dynamo of Liverpool and so they were keen to bring him down,” added a despondent Mahmoud as he left a Cairo cafe after Salah’s injury. “The match has lost its attraction after Salah. Now the dream of doing well at the World Cup is in doubt.”
“The mission was accomplished. They crippled Salah at any cost. Curse you, Ramos!” said an Egyptian man, calling himself Joseph in a Twitter post.
The sight of Salah leaving the field in tears unleashed a wave of sympathy in Egypt where the 25-year-old footballer is idolised as a national hero. “There are 90 million sharing your cries, Salah,” an Egyptian woman, calling herself Omania, tweeted, referring to the country’s population.
Egyptian media showed some fans in Salah’s Nile Delta village of Nagrig in tears as he left the pitch injured in Kiev.
However, the Egyptian Football Association [EFA] sounded upbeat that Salah will make it to the World Cup.
The EFA said in a statement that the national team’s doctor had been informed by Liverpool’s medical staff that an X-ray on Salah showed he was injured in the ligaments of the shoulder joint.
“According to this diagnosis, the national team’s doctor is optimistic that Salah will join the squad at the World Cup,” the EFA added.
In recent months, Salah has earned a cult status in Egypt, with his image featured on cushions, wall rugs and festive lanterns celebrating the month of Ramadan.
He had a sensational season in Liverpool, scoring a tally of 32 goals in 38 English Premier matches and winning the Player of the Year prize. Salah has netted a total of 44 goals in all competitions this season, a feat that has made him a global football icon.