GROZNY, Russia (AP) — Fans and Chechnya’s leadership have presented Egypt striker Mohamed Salah with a giant cake to mark his 26th birthday, the Egyptian soccer association’s spokesman said Saturday.
A video clip showed a cake coated in the colors of the Egyptian and Chechnya flags sitting on a table in the team’s hotel lobby in the Chechen capital of Grozny, the Pharaohs’ base.
Perched atop the cake was what appeared to be a replica of the golden boot won by Salah as the Premier League’s top scorer this season.
The Egyptian soccer association’s spokesman, Osama Ismail, said the cake was meant as a surprise for Salah, whose birthday fell on Friday, when Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in the opening match of its World Cup campaign in Russia.
Salah, who injured his left shoulder playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final last month, was an unused substitute in Friday’s match, which marked Egypt’s return to the World Cup after 28 years.
Egypt faces host Russia in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, and then take on Saudi Arabia on June 25 in the team’s final group stage match.
Salah smiled as he sang “Happy Birthday” with his teammates, team officials and hotel staff, but the brief celebration was visibly subdued and not everyone joined in.
“We could have celebrated more,” team director Ihab Leheta said, alluding to the loss to the South Americans.
The brief celebration took place upon the team’s arrival back in their Grozny hotel after their flight from Yekaterinburg, where they played Uruguay.