In case you’ve been living under a rock over the past few days, the Champions League Final last weekend was one for the record books. Real Madrid faced off against Liverpool in Kiev for European club soccer’s most prestigious prize. Madrid were victorious 3-1, largely thanks to a Gareth Bale masterclass, landing the club their third-straight title in the competition – a feat last replicated in the 1970s.
Injury to Salah
Any unbiased soccer fan will tell you that Madrid definitely deserved to win on the day, however, the match was marred by a nasty looking injury to Liverpool’s star man Mohamed Salah early in the game. Trying to control the ball to accelerate away from the defender, Salah and Madrid captain Sergio Ramos locked arms and the Spanish defender sent the Egyptian winger to the ground, landing on top of him. Whilst a somewhat clean tackle, the fall was particularly awkward, so much so that Salah actually sprained several muscles in his shoulder, dislocating it in the process. He was forced off, and Liverpool never quite got going again after this shock to their system. A dislocated shoulder is a very nasty injury, taking months to recover fully from, however, Salah is confident that he will be able to play a part, albeit less than he would like to, in the World Cup in three weeks time.
Ramos was merely doing his job
Since the match in Kiev, Ramos has been the recipient of a lot of backlash from fans and pundits worldwide. These people claim that Ramos intentionally latched onto Salah’s arm, and deliberately fell on top of him in hopes to injure the Egyptian. Quite frankly, I believe these arguments to be disgusting. Soccer is a contact sport, something that many forget, and Ramos was merely doing his job. Marking a player like Salah is difficult enough as is. Giving him any space to work in would be suicidal.
Perhaps the best player in the world this season, Salah can punish a defense for giving him time and space, with ease. To accuse Ramos of deliberately trying to cause harm to his opponent, without any type of evidence other than “overly physical defending or jockeying”, simply does not cut it. Ramos would’ve been the recipient of similar ridicule from Madrid supporters had he not gone out to prevent Liverpool from threatening going forward. He did his job, and did it well.
Fans letting off some steam
Liverpool and Egypt fans are right to be upset. The Merseyside club saw their Champions League dreams go up in smoke, and Egypt will be without easily their best player for some of the World Cup.
As said, Salah says he will be available for selection, however, there is no way he will be as effective as he’d like to be. Most of the animosity directed towards Ramos is simply fans letting off some steam after a disappointing Saturday night for Liverpool. Goalkeeper Loris Karius had a night to forget (to say the least) and many players were not as effective as they have been this year.
Nevertheless, there are those who say that Ramos should be reprimanded for his “despicable” behavior. There has even been an online petition formed in an attempt to “remove this kind of negative play from the sport”. The thousands who signed this digital file clearly have never played the sport before, nor have any clue how the officials and administrators work. I’m not trying to say that Ramos is a saint. He is one of the more polarizing faces in the sport, and this isn’t the first time that his defending style has been criticized.
However, he also has plenty of yellow and red cards during his career, for tackles, dissent, as well as diving like he blatantly did on Saturday, resulting in Sadio Mane’s wrongful booking. Referees are well aware of how Ramos likes to play, and are more than willing to reprimand him for behavior detrimental to the flowing of the game.
Bar the mentioned dive, Ramos did nothing wrong against Liverpool. He might be a jerk, and a party pooper on Merseyside, but he is a very tactically adept athlete, and one of the world’s best at the back. Any fan would love to have a player who plays with as much passion as Ramos on their back line for their team.
All in all, a World Cup without a fully fit Mo Salah will be a little less exciting, but I am confident that he will still be a game changer. Moreover, I sincerely hope that the soccer Gods give us a Spain-Egypt knockout stage match-up at the World Cup, for this is the type of game that will be fought for on the field with a do-or-die attitude from everyone, and this is what we need from the biggest sporting event in the world. Bring it on!