Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah has been granted honorary citizenship of Chechnya by its leader Ramzan Kadyrov at a farewell banquet for the eliminated World Cup side.
Egypt’s squad have been training in the Russian republic’s capital, Grozny, during the World Cup.
Mr Kadyrov handed Salah a decree declaring him a citizen and pinned a badge on his chest at a dinner in honour of the Egypt team, ahead of their departure for Volgograd where they will play Saudi Arabia in their final group match.
“Mohamed Salah thanked us for the surprisingly warm and good reception, excellent attitude to the team, excellent living conditions and training,” Mr Kadyrov posted on Russian social network site VK.
In his social media post, Mr Kadyrov said he wants Egypt to return to Chechnya after the World Cup for a friendly against local club Akhmat Grozny – named after his father, who was assassinated in 2004.
Mr Kadyrov is backed by the Kremlin but is under sanctions imposed by the US, which accuses him of contravening human rights. His rule has been marred by reports of extrajudicial killings and torture.
He recently came under pressure when reports surfaced of a broad crackdown on homosexual people.
The Egyptian Football Association posted pictures of the dinner, including shots of Salah sitting next to Mr Kadyrov, on its Twitter page.
Salah, 26, has been urged to explain the situation by Liverpool fan group Kop Outs, which represents the LGBT community, and LGBT fan group alliance Pride In Football.
They issued a joint statement that read: “We utterly condemn the acceptance by Mo Salah of any honour from Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya.”
The statement added: “Mo and all players have a responsibility to uphold human rights and should set standards of behaviour. We ask him to return the honorary citizenship as an acknowledgement of the persecution of LGBT+ people in Chechnya.”