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Al-Ahly players removed from squad after shaking hands with exiled star Aboutrika

Mahmoud Kahraba and Hussein el-Shahat to miss Club World Cup match for breaching Covid-19 regulations by greeting former star
Exiled Egyptian football star Mohamed Aboutrika attends a match between former team Al Ahly and Bayern Munich in the Qatari city of Al-Rayyan (Reuters)

Two Al Ahly players have been removed from the team’s squad for the FIFA Club World Cup third-place playoff after they shook hands with exiled former Egyptian football star Mohamed Aboutrika. 

Midfielder Hussein el-Shahat and winger Mahmoud Kahraba will miss the match against Brazilian club Palmeiras on Thursday for breaching coronavirus regulations by greeting someone outside of the team’s medical bubble. 

“FIFA prohibits Al-Shahat and Kahraba from participating in the match for third and fourth place due to their non-compliance with the precautionary measures,” Al Ahly confirmed in a statement on Twitter. 

Videos emerged on social media of the two players shaking hands with Aboutrika after Al Ahly’s 2-0 semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich on Monday, which took place in the Qatari city of Al-Rayyan.

Translation: Aboutrika shakes hands with Mahmoud Kahraba and Hussein El-Shahat after the end of the match

Aboutrika expressed regret for his involvement in the incident, tweeting: “I am very sorry, and I hope the rest of the team will make us proud.”

The 42-year-old former striker, who is widely believed to be the greatest player in Al Ahly’s history, was watching his team from the stands for the first time in several years. 

Videos emerged on social media of him taking selfies with supporters and joining in with chants throughout the game. At one point, fans around him sang the popular “Ya Trika” which honours the club legend.  

Translation: A legend on and off the field. Al-Ahly fans chanted for Mohamed Aboutrika during the Bayern Munich match.

Between 2004 and 2014, the forward guided Al Ahly to a remarkable seven domestic league titles and five African Champions League triumphs, scoring over 150 goals in the process.

Despite being seen as a national hero on and off the football pitch by millions of Egyptians, Aboutrika was forced into exile in Qatar after he was added to Egypt's terrorism list in 2017 for alleged links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - a charge he denies. 

He often spoke out on political issues during his playing career, including voicing his solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and lending his support to the pro-democracy protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square that led to the overthrow of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. 

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Following Al Ahly’s qualification for the Club World Cup, a tournament between the winners of various continental club competitions, Aboutrika said: “After four years of depriving me of visiting Al Ahly, fate brought the team to play... in Doha, and I will be close to them.” 

However, hopes of reuniting with the players of his former team were quashed when the club put out a statement earlier this month stating that Aboutrika would not be able to visit the team due to “the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic”.

“The ban and fine issued to the two Al Ahly players is completely justified. The strict rules are there for a reason and they should have been aware of the restrictions in place for players and match officials interacting with those outside of their bubble, including fans in the stadia,” Egyptian sports journalist Mostafa Mohamed told Middle East Eye. 

“It was good to see Aboutrika in the stands for Monday's game. His involvement in this incident though has slightly soured the heartening moment of seeing a club legend supporting his team."