Model says Mohamed Salah’s comments have made her a hate figure in Egypt

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Without Mohamed Salah’s intervention, Amr Warda would almost certainly have been forced to watch the rest of the African Cup of Nations from home.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Greek club POAK, was suspended last week after social media conversations between him and a number of women were posted online.

Egypt kicked him out of their African Cup of Nations squad, only to recall him days later after Salah posted a series of tweets about the decision to expel his teammate.

"Women must be treated with the utmost respect. 'No' means 'no'. Those things are and must remain sacred,” Salah tweeted. "I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better and shouldn’t be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out.

"We need to believe in second chances... we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer."

Warda missed Egypt’s group win over DR Congo but will return for the knockout stages after the Egyptian Football Association reduced his punishment.

One of the women who spoke up about Warda last week was Merhan Keller, a British-Egyptian model who claims she has received ‘thousands’ of abusive messages following Salah’s tweets.

Keller, who has 239,000 followers on Instagram, says she’s become a hate figure in Egypt and fears she will be attacked if she returns to the country.

"This person (Salah) is God in Egypt. Literally,” she is quoted as saying by the Mirror. “They don’t deal with him like a football player. He is God and he can do no wrong.

"This makes me in jeopardy. I cannot go to my country right now if I want to visit my family.

"People will attack me in the streets. You know how football fans are - ours are 100 times worse."

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Keller, who has lived in Dubai for seven years after emigrating from Egypt, plans to take legal action in the United Arab Emirates against Warda for the messages he sent.

She is also upset that Salah, arguably the most influential person in Egypt right now, has offered his opinion on such a sensitive issue.

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Salah did not condone Warda’s actions, it’s important to note, but did call for his teammate to receive a second chance.

"What is shocking for me in the Mohamed Salah situation is that it had absolutely nothing to do with him," Keller adds.

"I understand the human side of it, that it is his teammate and he is trying to take his side and he is trying to support him.

"But my concern here is that you can do that on a private level. You can go to him and tell him that he made a mistake, 'make sure you don’t do that again, I would advise you to make a public apology and just focus on yourself and your career and let’s just get through this'.

"You know what he has done, so the fact that he is still siding with him is really, really painful.”

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She says that Salah’s tweets have created a more intense online backlash against her.

"He is one of the most recognised figures in the world right now. This has pushed people to harass me even more,” Keller says.

"You have no idea the amount of hate messages, threats and stuff that I am getting.

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"It is horrible to see yourself in memes and in comics and having everyone making fun of you and swaying away from the main problem.

"I am not trying to take him down or sabotage him, because this is the accusation that I get from a lot of people. I think it is important to highlight that."

Warda is still suspended for Egypt’s final group match against Uganda but will be eligible for his national team’s Round of 16 tie, which is likely to be against either Senegal or Kenya in Cairo next week.

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