Star Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah is no stranger to capacity crowds, but he believes the lack-there-of is hurting Egyptian football and its players.
“[My thought on the league] is that fans must return. And I’m not blaming the authorities, they know more than me what’s best in terms of security. But I feel nothing when I play in an empty stadium,” Salah told Egypt’s On TV.
“Atmosphere is everything. When you play and hear the voices of other players around you, you can hear coaches from the other side of the stadium, when fans watching on TV can hear all that… I mean, no comment.”
Attendance for Egypt matches has been inconsistent at best since the 2012 Port Said Stadium disaster thanks to a ban by authorities.
Partial attendance has been allowed on occasion, with full attendance only permitted for the most significant international matches.
“Look at the atmosphere [for Egypt’s World Cup qualifier] against Congo. It was incredible. It makes you want to do anything to satisfy the fans,” Salah says.
“The problem for us as players is that we start getting used to playing matches without fans. And then suddenly for some games the stadium is packed. Naturally it can scare some players. It’s not their fault, imagine playing in empty stadiums then suddenly you see 120,000 fans in the stadium, or even just 80 or 90 thousand like the Congo game.” he added.
If the ban isn’t lifted or eased within the next few years, Egypt could risk having an entire generation of domestic players that never become accustomed to playing in front of large crowds.
In the 1990s and 2000s, it was a regular occurrence for up-to 120,000 fans to pack Cairo Stadium for Egypt’s most important matches.