Mohamed Salah has been granted honorary citizenship of Chechnya by the Russian region’s controversial leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
The Egypt team have been based in the Chechen capital of Grozny during the tournament, a decision than has been criticised by some because of Kadyrov’s alleged human rights abuses and the long distances the Egyptian team needed to travel before their group games.
Egyptian football officials responded to the criticism by saying that Grozny was on FIFA’s list of approved cities.
Salah was honoured during a banquet held to bid farewell to the Egypt squad held at Kadyrov’s presidential palace in Grozny on Friday night.
During the event, Kadyrov posed with the Liverpool hitman, while pinning a medal to his chest.
“It is a deserved honour,” Kadyrov wrote on social media, adding that Salah’s presence had ignited “unprecedented interest in football” in the region.
To make it clear, Kadyrov’s only interest in in Salah, not the entire Egyptian team. Being pictured alongside Salah makes him appears to be friends with one of the most popular Muslim athletes in the world. Look at where Salah is seated in comparison to his teammates #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/XPM3q3HhRp
— Karim Zidan (@ZidanSports) June 23, 2018
The controversial leader added that he wants the Egypt team to return to Chechnya after the World Cup for a friendly against local football team FC Akhmat Grozny.
Video of the event showed a smiling Salah sitting next to Kadyrov at the dinner table, with the leader later pinning a Chechen flag badge to Salah’s shirt.
Salah has been criticised by sections of Liverpool’s fanbase, who have accused their star striker of allowing himself to be used as a propaganda tool by Kadyrov.
Salah cosying up to Kadyrov's a bad look, but it's a by-product of football being used a tool to gain political power. We're in the middle of a World Cup that was sold to the highest bidder and money from Russia, Qatar and the UAE's propping up the game. Where's the line? #lfc
— Gläůber Bęrty (@GlauberBerty) June 23, 2018