Victorious Cranes not resting on their laurels

Monday June 24 2019

Uganda's forward Patrick Kaddu greets the fans

Uganda's forward Patrick Kaddu greets the fans after winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between DR Congo and Uganda at Cairo International Stadium on June 22, 2019. AFP PHOTO 

By ANDREW MWANGUHYA

Mohamed Salah was off injured within 30 minutes of last year’s Champions League final but celebrating inside two minutes of this one.
The last props of the opening ceremony were not even down the tunnel when Salah lashed his penalty past Hugo Lloris before lingering to show his joy in front of the Tottenham fans, long after his team-mates had trundled away.

Salah has history with Spurs supporters, largely on account of being the main threat to Harry Kane winning the Golden Boot in recent seasons, but perhaps there was more to why he wanted to hang on the moment.
After all, it was on this stage last year, with club football’s biggest prize in sight, that Salah saw his final ended early by a tug from Sergio Ramos and a tumble on his shoulder.
Taken off after half an hour, Salah lay in hospital, helpless while Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid and then he struggled at the World Cup, lacking sharpness as Egypt were knocked out without a victory.

“Before the game, I looked at a picture of last year and we were so disappointed to lose the final,” Salah said on Saturday night.
“I was very disappointed after that injury, I went off after 30 minutes and we lost the game. It motivated me to win today. When you know how it feels to lose, you say to yourself ‘Let’s go and win that’.”
Salah had been less explosive in recent months, perhaps because opponents are warier, or perhaps just because sustaining those levels of performance was always going to be a tall order.
But in many ways this final became Salah’s final, as soon as Moussa Sissoko thrust his arm out to point to a team-mate and Sadio Mane’s cross struck him after 23 seconds.

At the end, as Liverpool’s fans behind him roared, plumes of red filling the air, Salah arched his neck back and looked to the sky.
“I think our game is more mental,” he said. “You have to believe in yourself and you can see the players were believing in themselves tonight.
“Everything happens for a reason and last year when we lost the final, I think we were meant to come back and win it this time.”

Concrete reward
When he was growing up in Nagrig, a small farming town in Egypt, Salah would play video games and invariably choose Liverpool as his club. Now 26, he lifts his most prestigious trophy with them too, and the only one, other than a pair of Swiss Super League titles with Basel.
For all his individual accolades, and there are many, Salah now has a concrete reward to match his talent and for this Liverpool side too, who lost the Premier League title by one point, arguably to the most complete team the competition has ever seen.

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com

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