Salah was just 19 when he made his debut for Egypt – in a match against Sierra Leone in September 2011. A month later, he struck his first goal for his country against Niger, while he also represented the Pharaohs at the Olympic Games in England in 2012…
I couldn’t believe it – I was in the national team when I was 19. It was hard to let it sink in because at the time it was usually too early for a player of that age. Especially for us, my generation, because the generation before ours, all of them were around the age of 30.
When someone was called into the national team, they’d be 27, 28… but I was 19, so it was like, ‘wow!’ and difficult to understand. But I had to deal with it quickly.
I think after a year or two people thought, ‘OK, now he is a man for the national team – he has to produce in all of the games’. There was a lot of pressure early, but it was like a dream to play with the national team.
One of my best memories of those early days with the national team was when I went to the Olympics in 2012. It was a good moment for me, especially because I’d just signed for Basel.
I went to the tournament and scored a goal in all three group games against Brazil, New Zealand and Belarus and we got to the quarter-finals.
That actually helped me have a good start with the Basel fans because they could be like, ‘ah, he’s scoring there – that’s good for us!’
It was also good for me to push me and give me more energy to see myself as a top player. Olympic Games always have the top players involved, so it was a good time for me.