London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) announced on Thursday that it suspended a player accused of making a gesture in support of popular Egyptian Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a goal celebration.
Salah Amin, who plays for the Tala’ea El-Gaish, or Vanguard Army, Football Club, which is affiliated to the Egyptian military, was accused of violating rules against players making political statements after he made a hand sign during a recent league game that is widely used by supporters of Sisi.
That gesture, where the index finger and thumb of each hand form the letter “C,” has become a protest against the pro-Muslim Brotherhood’s four-fingered Rabaa sign.
EFA announced that Amin would be suspended for the rest of the season and would be fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. 2,875 US dollars) for his celebration, but stressed that Amin and Tala’ea El-Gaish had the right to appeal.
Amin initially denied making the Sisi gesture, telling Egyptian state television that he was mimicking pressing an aerosol can. “I don’t know anything about politics,” he said.
EFA spokesman Azmi Megahed told Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper that “Amin still has the right to appeal.”
He added: “There is no difference between one player and another; we have regulations that should be respected.”
This is not the first time an Egyptian footballer has been criticized for bringing politics onto the field, although it is the first time one has been banned for making a pro-military sign. Other Egyptian sporting figures have previously been censured after making pro-Brotherhood signs.
Al-Ahly Football team player Ahmed Abdel-Zaher was criticized for flashing the Rabaa sign during the club’s African Champions League final victory last year. The EFA suspended him for three months and banned him from representing Egypt for a year. Al-Ahly also took the unilateral decision to sell the striker.
In 2013, a number of Egyptian athletes were suspended for their perceived support of the Muslim Brotherhood after making the Rabaa sign, including kung fu champion Mohamed Yousef, who wore a shirt bearing the Rabaa sign and flashed the four-finger salute at an international tournament in Russia. Yousef was banned by Egypt’s Kung Fu Federation for making the gesture.