In an interview with TIME, the Red’s legendary striker Mohamed Salah expressed his strong belief in the importance of gender equality in the Middle East, calling on men to treat women respectfully.
“I think we need to change the way we treat women in our culture,” Salah said, insisting this change is not something “optional.”
He described the ways in which witnessing women’s treatment has influenced his thoughts regarding gender, claiming he now supports woman more than he ever has in the past. “I feel like she deserves more than what they give her now, at the moment,” he told TIME.
The Egyptian icon has been listed by TIME among the world’s 100 most influential people. He was featured on one of the issue’s six covers.
In the same interview, Salah expressed his deep appreciation for all the love and respect he receives from Middle Eastern fans, prompting familial feelings for him.
“To be the first Egyptian in [this] situation–and no one has done this before–it’s something different,” he said.
Salah also referred to several challenges he faced at the beginning of his success journey when he first came from Egypt to Switzerland, saying, “In the beginning, I was suffering a lot.” Language, the difficulty of his work work and cultural differences were the main obstacles, according to his interview. He said thankfully, “But, you know I’m happy that I’m here now after a long way.”
Salah also highlighted the warm welcoming he has received from Liverpool, pointing out the fans and the club’s love–support that kept him motivated all the time.
“You feel the love when they sing your song. That must mean you are special,” he concluded.