This is the World Cup of small teams, of underdogs, of underrated teams. It’s the World Cup of surprises, shocks; the World Cup of the brave and the passionate, warriors, fighting against the odds, the World Cup of dreamers and believers.

Finally.

Bring. It. On.

Yet even I, as an Egyptian and a Muslim, and a non-soccer fan living an ocean away, have taken notice of Mohamed Salah’s meteoric rise and thought about what he might do to change the perception of Arabs and Muslims around the world. I have often found myself—at airports, or on the subway—thinking, Do I look too Arab? Are my clothes too ethnic? Should I be trying harder to blend in? What stands out to me most about Salah, who is far more conspicuously Arab and Muslim than I am, is that he doesn’t seem concerned with trying to blend into anything. He is simply himself. That, more than anything else he has done on the field, is what I admire most.

Dejan Lovren in a recent interview:

“My relationship with Salah is more than just friendship, It started like any two teammates in one team, but it turned into a very strong friendship after I felt that there was a connection between me and him more than normal, and that the way is was open to a strong relationship between us which started by randomly throwing jokes.

I wanted to be in touch with each other always, some asking why? Because he’s a very good person, and his heart is great, and he’s a lot like me. Although I’m on a stronger physical level than him, and he’s definitely jealous of me right now because of this, of course I’m joking.

He has a very great personality and a wonderful mind, and I love spending my time with characters that resemble me in the same qualities and goodness.

he is always willing to help others, and despite the great success he has achieved in a short period of time, as he has become one of the best 3 players in the world,from my point of view, he is still the same person and has never changed.

I believe that anything that happens in life has reasons, so I would say that one of the reasons I know him is to work together, either now or after football, to help good people”and added “we will not stop there, but we will continue, and I hope he will not block me on Instagram.”(laughing)