MOHAMED SALAH is the hottest property in world football, leading Liverpool to the Champions League semi-final this season with a blistering 40 goals.
SunSport sent two Egyptian journalists to Salah’s hometown of Nagrig, Gharbia, 80 miles north of capital Cairo, to meet the people who helped shape Salah – and learn stories of the generosity that has seen the forward donate hundreds of thousands of pounds to improve the lives of people who live there.
Born to an average family in Gharbia Province, Mohamed Salah’s dreams had no limits.
The Egpytian star, 25, has had to take a nomadic path to the top – via stops in Basel, London, Rome and now Merseyside – before becoming the superstar we see today.
He has thrilled fans this season with his massive goal haul for Liverpool, leading Jurgen Klopp’s men to the Champions League semi-final.
But Salah, who earns £90,000-a-week and has a price-tag of at least £200million, has never forgotten where he came from – spending hundreds of thousands of pounds working to improve the lives of people he left behind in Nagrig.
Growing up in a modest three-storey house, a stone’s throw from a football pitch, Salah was the eldest of four children.
His parents both worked government jobs, while his father also traded in Jasmine, the white flower that covers the surrounding countryside.
Salah has more money then many of us can dream about but he has used it to positively influence hundreds of lives in his hometown.
Stories of his generosity are never-ending.
Salah had that dream of becoming rich so as to help his people
Nagrig local, Dr Alaa al-Ghamrawi
He paid for the first ambulance in the area and has bought expensive medical equipment that helps dozens of people every day.
His charity also provides much-needed supplies to a number of families, with the star spending up to £3,500 monthly to support them.
The Liverpool star is even funding construction of a youth centre, girls’ school and medical centre.
In his hometown he has earned the nickname ‘happiness maker’.
Salah’s first move after joining Liverpool was to place $300,000 (approx. £210,000) into the Tahya Masr (Long Live Egpyt) fund, after meeting president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
To ensure donations were getting to the right people, Salah has set up his own charity in Nagrig.
SunSport travelled to meet Maher Shatiyah, board manager of the Mohamed Salah Charity Foundation, and also the Mayor of Nagrig.
“Salah is a refined person who, despite his popularity, has never forgotten about his town,” Shatiyah told us.
“[He has provided] many forms of assistance, the first of which was a series of foodstuff outlets under the municipality’s management, as well as the town’s first ambulance unit.”
Shatiyah added: “Salah had always subsisted unable fellow villagers, but wanted to [formalise] that assistance.
“The establishment of the charity caters for a larger number of families, [he spends between] £2,000 and £3,500 monthly.”
Salah’s charity is also planning to establish a services complex as well as a fully-equipped medical clinic.
On a 1,500 square-metre plot of land, the foundation is busy building a school for girls.
He was brought up in a good, modest family, and there he learnt to be good to others.
Nagrig accountant Adel al-Abbas
The building will save locals the burden of sending the girls outside of the village by bus to learn.
Salah is a frequent return visitor to Nagrig.
He married a local girl, Magi, in the village when he was 20 and returns every Ramadan to share his wealth with residents.
When people from Nagrig get married, Salah buys practical household gifts to help set them up.
Shatiyah also recalls a “benevolent gesture” from the Reds star.
Wealthy former Zamalek president Mamdouh Abbas had offered the forward a bonus for his vital role in earning the Egypt national team a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Salah scored a late penalty against Congo to ensure The Pharaohs their first place at the tournament since 1990.
But rather than take the bonus money, Salah asked Abbas to instead redirect the money to purchase medical supplies for his hometown.
Another story tells of how Salah’s family were burgled.
His father wanted to press charges but the forward insisted they be dropped – Salah instead gave the thief money and helped him find a job.
Another local, Dr Alaa al-Ghamrawi, reveals that Salah has bought a range of vital medical equipment.
The 25-year-old spent £10,000 on an early detection device for rheumatoid arthritis, which can help prevent heart disease.
The machine serves more than 50 people every day.
“Salah had that dream of becoming rich so as to help his people,” Dr al-Ghamrawi, who directs a national programme to fight the disease, says.
“He has financed the purchase of two incubators for premature infants at Basyoun Hospital, which saved families the burden of having to travel outside the province for treatment.”
To show their appreciation, a secondary school in the city of Basyoun now bears his name, as does a sports centre in Nagrig.
Salah donated [£50,000] to the Tanta University Hospital to supply it with modern medical equipment
Amr Abul-Naga, a relative of Salah
Gym equipment and an all-weather pitch have been paid for at Mohamed Ayyad Al-Tantawy school, where he was educated.
Adel al-Abbas, an accountant, told us he finds Salah’s charity a “normal thing”.
“He had always, since childhood, liked to help neighbours and his local community.
“We are proud of him,” says Mr al-Abbas. “Though busy abroad, he tasks his father to help whoever is in need.
“He was brought up in a good, modest family, and there he learnt to be good to others.”
Another resident, Mohamed Metwali, adds: “Salah has always been there for the needy, but makes sure to keep away from the [spotlight].
“His family members rarely mention his charitable work, especially when talking to the media.
“His father always says that Salah is simply expressing gratefulness.”
Much time has passed since Salah’s first contract at club El Mokawloon SC, also known as Arab Contractors, where the forward was earning just £5,000 annually.
He had joined the club at 14, his trademark left foot and blistering speed catching the eye of a watching scout during a schools tournament organised by Pepsi drinks.
There was one problem for the teenage Salah… his new club were located 100 miles away.
On some days his father his father would drive him, but other days Salah would have to get the bus.
He would wake at 7am, walk a kilometre, ride a bike to Basyoun, get a bus to Tanta, another bus to Cairo and then a final bus to the club.
It took four hours (on a good day) each way – by the time he got home it would be midnight.
Salah never complained and eventually would be invited to the club full-time.
Now a governor in the city of Beni Suef, Sherif Habib is a former chairman of Salah’s first club.
Habib had a desire to have one of his players shine in Europe.
The governor tells SunSport that Salah was perfect, “a model”.
He says: “Though Salah was surrounded by several distinguished players with the juniors, I was adamant to pick up an Egyptian who could make history in Europe.
“It was Salah who brought that to reality.”
Salah made his first-team debut at 18 and quickly became a regular in the side.
His pay was to be doubled after impressive performances – but Salah was already beginning to dream of Europe despite Egypt’s bigger clubs, Al Ahly and Zamalek, calling.
Habib recalls sitting with Salah in 2008 and going over his two choices: stay in Egypt were he would be guaranteed huge wealth and a level of fame, or take a risk in Europe.
Salah wanted to take his chance and Habib was happy to help.
Habib adds that Salah was “self-determined, very religious and [able to] adapt quickly.
“When we travelled together to Switzerland to clinch the Basel deal, he was unknown to anyone, but had the acceptance and charisma which helped him in his journey.
“It made him close to his team-mates and coaches and later turned him into the toast of Basel fans.”
Liverpool fans will know that feeling well.
Salah’s family and those closest to him are very cautious when dealing with Egyptian media.
The forward himself is a quiet, shy character who shuns the spotlight despite his outrageous talent and fame.
His father said that he would not speak about personal issues, stressing that his son had asked him not to talk about his personal life or charity work.
Amr Abul-Naga, one of Salah’s relatives, says he liked to play football with his friends at the village’s field.
Abul-Naga recalls a child phoning Salah, asking for help buying a device which he needed for a spinal cord surgery.
Salah spent £50,000 of his own money so the procedure could be completed.
Destined to play in Red?
Mohamed Salah revealed in a recent interview that when he played video games as a kid he’d always pick Liverpool.
“I am a video game fan,” said Salah, “and I always played with Liverpool.
“It was my favorite team which comprised [Steven] Gerrard, Sami Hyypia, [Jamie] Carragher, Michael Owen and Xabi Alonso.
“I always wished to play for Liverpool someday.”
“Salah donated E£1,000,000 to the Tanta University Hospital to supply it with modern medical equipment,” Abul-Naga reveals.
“He considers such donations something that should not be publicised to the media. He wants his village to be self-sufficient with all services.
“He even plans to install a railway connecting the village with Basyoun.”
Fans pack around a TV in an Egyptian cafe to see Mohamed Salah named African player of the year
Every kid in Nagrig, and most of Egpyt, now wear Liverpool shirts with ‘Salah 11’ on the back, the forward is a national hero and inspiration to millions.
There is video showing fans crammed into a tiny cafe and packed around a TV screen to see Salah named African player of the year.
It seems unlikely that one of world football’s biggest stars comes from a small village miles from civilisation.
But Salah said it best when he was collecting his award for African Player of the Year in December.
“Never stop dreaming, never stop believing.”