Egyptian soccer coach says he wants only…
Egypt coach Hassan Shehata wants only players who observe Islam, and says team selection is based equally on religious piety and skill.
Shehata’s comments, published Thursday in Egyptian newspapers, show how sports and religion are increasingly mixing in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 80 million.
The intrusion of religion into sports is part of the country’s gradual movement toward religious conservatism over the last few decades, with more people praying at mosques, most women adopting the Islamic veil in public, and diminishing tolerance for secular Muslims or minority Christians.
Shehata’s comments take religion in sports to a whole new level. He was quoted by Cairo newspapers as saying skill alone won’t guarantee anyone a place on the national team.
He said “pious behavior” was the main reason for selection.
“Without it, we will never select any player regardless of his potential,” he said. “I always strive to make sure that those who wear the Egypt jersey are on good terms with God.”
One newspaper, the independent al-Shorouk, quoted Shehata as saying that striker Ahmed “Mido,” on loan from England’s Middlesborough to Cairo’s Zamalek, was cut four days after his initial selection because he did not fit the manager’s prerequisite for piety.