Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané visit a local Liverpool mosque each week after training for Jumu’ah, the Friday prayer. It is an obligatory prayer for Muslim men, who are encouraged to wear their smartest clothes for the occasion. The football-supporting Muslims especially the children are blown away by their presence. The players mingle. They pose for pictures. In a recent photograph, Mané, who grew up in the small village of Bambali, south Senegal, within a deeply-religious family, is wearing a wonderful emerald green kaftan, a long top, with two youngsters.
People have posted on social media that they want to convert to Islam because of these players. It’s not only about the goals they are scoring – particularly Salah, the Premier League’s outright top scorer on 28 goals – but because they are spreading the message of what the Muslim faith is about: being open, welcoming, among the people; being humble and not thinking about oneself – which for a star footballer generally bucks the trend.
There are numerous Anfield terrace songs about “Egyptian King” Salah, including: “If he’s good enough for you/He’s good enough for me/If he scores another few/ Then I’ll be Muslim too,” which ends: “He’s sitting in the mosque/ That’s where I want to be.”
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is known to regularly donate to charity. At the club’s player of the season awards last year, the midfielder donated a substantial sum to pay for 11-year-old United supporter Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, to be a mascot. On Pogba’s 25th birthday last week, he implored his 6.9million followers on Facebook to donate to Save the Children. Giving to charity is a staple of Islam.