Egyptian Salah is one of the world’s top athletes and is well aware of his capacity to bring about change.
In an interview with TIME, he stressed the importance of gender equality, while reflecting on his iconic profile in his homeland.
“I think we need to change the way we treat women in our culture,” Salah said. “It’s not optional.
“I support the woman more than I did before, because I feel like she deserves more than what they give her now, at the moment.”
Salah, who is one of six athletes to feature in the 2019 list, also discussed his role as a trailblazer and role model in Egyptian society.
“To be the first Egyptian in [this] situation and no one has done this before … it’s something different,” he explained.
‘Better human being’
Salah’s global popularity surged last year when he enjoyed a breakthrough season with Liverpool, scoring 44 goals in the 2017-18 campaign and helping the English Premier League side reach the Champions League final.
While goals haven’t flowed as freely for the Egyptian this campaign, the forward is still this season’s joint-leading scorer in the EPL and his wonder strike last weekend helped Liverpool defeat Chelsea, continuing the Reds’ pursuit of a first Premier League title.
“Mo Salah is a better human being than he is a football player. And he’s one of the best football players in the world,” writes comedian and Liverpool fan John Oliver in his TIME dedication to the player.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional athlete in any sport less affected by their success or status than Mo, which is incredible because I can’t imagine the kind of pressure that comes with the intensity of adoration he receives.
“Mo is an iconic figure for Egyptians, Scousers [natives of Liverpool] and Muslims the world over, and yet he always comes across as a humble, thoughtful, funny man who isn’t taking any of this too seriously.
“As a footballer, he plays with an infectious joy. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be able to play as well as him, and watching his face light up after he does something incredible, you get the reassuring sense that it’s exactly as fun as you’d want it to be. I absolutely love him.”