Despite his team’s World Cup loss to Uruguay on Friday, Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy was well-deserving of “Man of the Match” honors, given several terrific saves that kept his underdog side hanging around in a 1-0 defeat. However, the 29-year-old declined the official trophy that went with the designation because its sponsorship by Budweiser conflicted with his Muslim beliefs.
Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, and Egypt is one of several majority-Muslim countries competing in the World Cup, along with Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Tunisia, with Muslims make up roughly half the population of Nigeria. The Man of the Match trophy is designed as a tall, red goblet with the word “Bud” emblazoned on it in large letters.
Egypt team director Ihab Leheta confirmed to the Associated Press on Sunday that Elshenawy did not accept the trophy, although he said the goalkeeper offered a “few words” and posed for photos in a brief Man of the Match ceremony after the game. Leheta claimed there was no specific policy regarding involvement with alcohol-related sponsors or prizes for the squad, of which all the players are Muslim.
“It is up to each one,” he said. A photo shared on social media appeared to show Elshenawy making a gesture toward the trophy that indicated he was declining it.
In addition to the teams representing majority-Muslim nations, teams from countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland feature players of the Islamic faith. Some of them are among the biggest individual stars in the tournament, including Mesut Ozil (Germany) and Paul Pogba (France), and it remains to be seen how they might choose to deal with being awarded a Man of the Match trophy, should they receive the honor.
Elshenawy was not one of the better-known players entering the World Cup, and, in fact, there was some question before the game whether he or Egypt’s other goalkeeper, Essam El-Hadary, would be in the lineup against Uruguay. Elshenawy more than justified the decision by the Pharaohs’ coach, Hector Cuper, with some top-notch stops, including a spectacular denial of Edinson Cavani, the standout striker for La Celeste.
Other Man of the Match honorees thus far, including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho and Croatia’s Luka Modric, have been featured by Budweiser’s official Twitter account. Elshenawy was not.
Of course, most Egypt fans are likely less concerned with Elshenawy’s rejection of a trophy than with the health of the team’s star, Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool forward, who was named the Premier League Player of the Season for 2017-18, hurt his shoulder during that team’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid and sat out the World Cup opener against Uruguay.
Salah’s agent declared Sunday that his client was “fit,” bolstering expectations that he will play in Egypt’s match Tuesday versus World Cup host Russia.
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