Out of Sight, Out of Mind No More

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Africa|Out of Sight, Out of Mind No More

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/05/world/africa/africa-cup-of-nations.html

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At last, we appear to be getting somewhere. Late on New Year’s Day, Mohamed Salah’s beaming face appeared on British television screens. Salah always has the slightly ruffled appearance of a man who has not slept desperately well, but he was in distinctly good cheer.

His Liverpool team had just dismantled Newcastle United to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League. He had played wonderfully: scoring two goals, creating one and missing a penalty so as to foster the illusion of drama in what was otherwise a hopelessly one-sided sporting contest.

There was, though, a bittersweet tinge to the jubilation. That was the last Liverpool will see of Salah — in the flesh, at least — for several weeks. Immediately after the game, he was scheduled to travel to Egypt’s imaginatively-titled New Administrative Capital, just outside Cairo, to join his national team’s preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins next weekend. He does not plan to return to Liverpool until the middle of February.

It is natural, of course, that the focus in Britain — and for those who follow the Premier League in general and Liverpool in particular — should be on how Salah’s absence might affect an unusually tense title race. (Liverpool will be fine, apparently. “Anyone can play where I play,” Salah said, modestly. “Anyone can do what I am doing,” he added, pushing his luck a bit.)

In recent years, though, an awareness has seeped in that this approach might be considered just a little parochial.

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Achraf Hakimi anchors a Morocco team that reached the 2022 World Cup semifinals.Credit…Borja Sanchez-Trillo/EPA, via Shutterstock

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