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Egypt planned for Mohamed Salah to follow in footsteps of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt at Olympics

Mohamed Salah is training with the Egyptian national team the day before the match against Burkina Faso in the qualifiers for the World Cup 2026, in Cairo, Egypt, on June 5, 2024, at Cairo International Stadium.
-Credit: (Image: Ayman Aref/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Liverpool will not lose any players to the Olympics in Paris this summer. But Egypt had hoped to call up Mohamed Salah, and had grand plans for its talisman.

Unlike other competitions, the Olympic football tournament is not within the FIFA-sanctioned window that requires clubs to release players to their national teams. As such, Liverpool was under no obligation to allow any of its players to represent their nations.

But it will be pleased to have avoided any outright confrontation. It's emerged that Salah was fully on board with the decision not to release him, and it was recently confirmed that Wataru Endo will also not be called up by Japan, removing the final piece of uncertainty.

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That's good news for Arne Slot, who will not have to contend with further disruption at the start of his reign. He is already having to wait for a number of key players to return from Euro 2024 and the Copa America.

Still, it's something of a shame that the increasingly absurd football schedule makes it near-impossible for clubs to let their top stars go to the Olympics. The Games, after all, are treated as the pinnacle of most other sports, with the likes of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt having become legends.

And Salah was one of the few footballers who could have received similar treatment at the Olympics. Egypt was ready to award him an honor that has previously been awarded to both Bolt and Phelps.

Speaking to DMC, via Goal, Egypt's Olympic Committee chief Yasser Idris has confirmed that Salah would have been made flag-bearer. That would have seen him lead out his nation's athletes at the opening ceremony, as Bolt did for Jamaica in 2012 and Phelps did for the USA in 2016.

Michael Phelps of USA carries the American flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Michael Phelps leads out Team USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics. -Credit:Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

"The flag bearer shouldn't only be a football player, Salah is an exception due to his popularity in the country and worldwide and that's why we were planning for him to do the honors if he was present," Idris said. "Now it will be Sarah Samir (weightlifter) and Ahmed Gendi (modern pentathlon) because they both have won Olympic medals in the past.”

Salah is yet to win any major honors with Egypt. He reached the final of the African Cup of Nations, but famously lost out to Sadio Mane and Senegal on penalties.

Liverpool.com says: This would have been an amazing moment for Salah, and one he has earned. It also would have been another chance to win silverware with his country, especially because even a third-placed finish is still rightly celebrated as a major Olympic achievement.

There's no blame on Liverpool, but it is sad that the Olympics simply cannot be accommodated, with players already being mandated to play upwards of 60 matches a season. It's just the latest reminder that the schedule is in need of reform.