Egyptian football authorities overturn Amr Warda's suspension

Egypt Football Association reduces penalty against Warda over sexual harassment claims after teammates express support.

    Warda, 25, plays for the Greek side PAOK and Egypt's national team [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
    Warda, 25, plays for the Greek side PAOK and Egypt's national team [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

    The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has overturned a decision to expel attacking midfielder Amr Warda for alleged sexual harassment of several women online following the intervention of several of his teammates, including star striker Mohamed Salah.

    Warda on Wednesday was expelled from Egypt's African Nations Cup squad after a model uploaded screenshots of inappropriate messages that the 25-year-old PAOK footballer had allegedly sent her via Whatsapp.

    The EFA said in a statement on Friday that it would reduce the penalty against Warda, effectively allowing him to return to the squad for the tournament's second round.

    "[President] Hani Abu Reda has praised the spirit of solidarity among the players and their desire to pardon their colleague Amr Warda and to lift the decision to suspend him," a statement on the EFA's website read.

    "He decided to reduce the penalty of suspension until the end of the first round of the tournament only." 

    The decision came after Warda on Thursday posted a video on Facebook apologising to his family, teammates, the EFA and "anyone who is upset with me". In his message, Warda made no direct apology to the women he had allegedly harassed.

    Team support

    Aston Villa defender Ahmed Elmohamady was among several players expressing their support to Warda following the EFA's decision to expel him from the squad.

    Elmohamady told reporters that the team's players would not leave Warda alone, and that "we all make mistakes". 

    Salah, who plays for English club Liverpool, called for Warda to be given "a second chance".

    "Women must be treated with the utmost respect. 'No' means 'no'. Those things are and must remain sacred," Salah wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

    "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," he added.

    One of the women Warda allegedly harassed also came out in his support.

    In a post on Twitter, the alleged victim said she "did not want them to continue attacking Warda" and even "asked for forgiveness".

    Backlash from fans 

    Salah's support for Warda elicited strong reactions from his fans, some of whom said they were disappointed to see him siding with his teammate rather than the women he had allegedly harassed.

    Salah had stated in an interview with Time magazine in April that he wanted to change attitudes of men in Egypt and across the Muslim world to "treat women with more respect".

    Sexual harassment in Egypt has made headlines since the 2011 revolution, with surveys showing that nearly 60 percent of women have been the target of sexual harassment in public spaces.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News