LONDON – Liverpool fans’ love for the Muslim ‘Egyptian King’ shows how much the English sport has changed since the days of the National Front (NF) far-right fascists chanting on terraces.
Britons are changing their opinion about Muslims in the Premier League. The indisputably stylish and devoted Muslim sportsmen of the English Premier League (EPL) are having a profound effect on misperceptions about their faith.
Here follows a number of recent Muslim players who have excelled in the current EPL season:
1- Prostrating Pharaoh (Mohamed Salah)
The forward Egyptian started his career with Mokawloon club (Arab Contractors FC) in Egypt, then transferred to FC Basel, Switzerland in 2012. His first step in the EPL was with Chelsea, which loaned him to the Italian club Fiorentina. Afterwards, Salah transferred to Roma before settling in Liverpool in 2017. As well as representing the Egyptian national team since 2011, he won a bronze medal in Africa’s U-20 Cup of Nations. He also participated in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and reached the finals of the 2017 CAF Cup of Nations. With his national teammates, Salah successfully qualified Egypt to the FIFA World Cup 2018 and became the top African scorer of FIFA’s World Cup qualification (CAF). He won one Swiss Super League and the Premier League 2014–15 with Chelsea, as well as the English Football League Cup 2014–15. He was awarded the CAF’s Most Promising African Talent of the Year award in 2012. Then in 2013, he was awarded the SAFP Golden Player award for being the best player in the Swiss Super League. In 2017, Salah was named CAF’s African Footballer of the Year, the BBC’s African Footballer of the Year, and Premier League Player of the Month (November). He was also selected in the CAF Team of the Year and CAF Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament.
2- The Teranga Lion (Sadio Mané)
This Senegalese winger started at Metz club in France from where he transferred in 2012 to Austrian Red Bull Salzburg, with which he won the Bundesliga and cup in 2014. A year later, he was signed by Southampton and set a new EPL record for the fastest hat-trick when he scored three times in 176 seconds. He transferred to Liverpool in 2016 for a fee of £34 million, making him the most expensive African player in history at that time, before Mohamed Salah’s transfer to Liverpool. Mané has earned over 40 caps for the country since his debut in 2012 and represented the national team at the 2012 Olympics, 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
3- The Raven (Mesut Özil)
A skilled Turkish attacking midfielder with a German nationality who can also be deployed as a winger, Özil began his senior career as a member of his hometown club Schalke 04. He departed two seasons later to join Werder Bremen. Özil garnered break-out attention at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where at age of 22, he was instrumental in the side’s campaign when they reached the semi-finals, losing to eventual champions, Spain. He was also nominated for the Golden Ball Award, as well as being ranked first in assists in major European and domestic competitions with 25. All this earned him a transfer to the world champions Real Madrid where he won the Copa del Rey, La Liga, and Supercopa de España. Afterwards, Özil relocated to Arsenal in a then club-record deal worth £42.5 million, making him the most expensive German player of all time. With them, he won three FA Cups and the FA Community Shield. Özil represented Germany in two FIFA World Cups and two UEFA European Championships.
4- Emre Can
The Turkish central midfielder with German nationality is a versatile player who can also play as a defensive midfielder, center back, and fullback. He began his senior career at the German giant Bayern Munich before transferring to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013. A season later, he was signed by Liverpool where he has since made over 150 appearances in all competitions. Can represented Germany from Under-15 to Under-21 level, and featured at the 2015 Under-21 European Championship. He made his senior debut in September 2015 and was selected for the 2016 European Championship. The following year, he was part of the German squad which won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
5- Egyptian Rock (Mohamed Elneny)
The Egyptian midfielder debuted his football career with the Egyptian and African giants Al Ahly. In 2008, he transferred to El Mokawloon SC. After successful seasons, he moved to Basel in 2013 where he won eight honors, including the Swiss Super League. In 2016, he transferred to London’s top team, Arsenal. Elneny competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics for Egypt’s Under-23 team. Along with his teammates, he reached the finals of 2017 CAF Cup of Nations and has successfully qualified Egypt to the FIFA World Cup 2018.
6- Albanian Gunner (Shkodran Mustafi)
This Albanian center back who has German nationality began his career at Hamburger SV, then joined English club Everton before leaving to Sampdoria of Italy in 2012. Two years later, the Spanish side Valencia signed him before moving to Arsenal. Mustafi made his full international debut with Germany in 2014 and was part of the German teams that won the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, also competing at UEFA Euro 2016.
7- Xhakaboom (Granit Xhaka)
A great Albanian talent that holds Swiss nationality, Xhaka began his career at his hometown club, Basel, winning the Swiss Super League twice. He then moved to German Bundesliga team, Borussia Mönchengladbach, in 2012, leading the team to UEFA Champions’ League qualification for a second successive season. In 2016, he transferred to Arsenal where he won the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield. He made history with Switzerland winning for the country its first FIFA U-17 World Cup. He was also named the Individual Credit Suisse Youth Player of the Year in 2012 and 2017.
8- Sead Kolašinac
A Bosnian left back who plays for London Gunners, Arsenal, and the Bosnian national team, Kolašinac began his career in his hometown club, Karlsruher SC in Germany. After eight years, he joined 1899 Hoffenheim before transferring to VfB Stuttgart. A season later, he joined Schalke 04. In 2017, the Bosnian defender was transferred to Arsenal where he won the FA Community Shield.
9- Asmir Begović
A Bosnian goalkeeper who plays for the English club Bournemouth and the Bosnian national team, for which he is the vice-captain, the 29-year old Muslim, who has dual Bosnian and Canadian citizenships, won Stoke City club’s Player of the Year award in 2012–13 season. Begović has been voted the 2012 Bosnian Footballer of the Year by the Bosnian Sports Writers’ Jury. In 2013, Begović became the 5th goalkeeper ever to score a goal in the English Premier League with FC Chelsea, scoring from 97.5 yards after only 13 seconds, also setting the world record for ‘longest goal scored in football.’ In the same year, he set up his own charity, Asmir Begović Foundation. After succeeding in establishing himself as number one goalkeeper of the Bosnian national team, he helped the country to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Muslim-majority country’s first ever major tournament.
10- Islam Feruz
Ferus is a 21-year-old Somali Muslim center forward who plays for Chelsea and Scotland’s national team. Because of his dual Tanzanian and Scottish citizenships, Feruz is also eligible to play for Tanzania which he wished to play for in 2012 and 2013 during the qualifiers of the African Cup of Nations. In 2010, Feruz was awarded the Young Scot Award. The prize annually recognizes youngsters between the ages of 12 and 22 who have contributed positively to communities in Scotland.
11- N’Golo Kanté
A 26-year-old Malian professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder for English club Chelsea and the France national team, he made his senior debut at Boulogne and then spent two seasons at Caen, the latter in Ligue 1. In 2015, he joined Leicester City when he won the club’s first ever Premier League title. The following year, he joined Chelsea, winning the league again in his first season. He also won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year and became the first outfield player to win back-to-back English league titles with different clubs.
12- Tiémoué Bakayoko
He is an Ivoirian defensive midfielder who plays for Chelsea and the France national team. After suffering a broken leg as a young player, Bakayoko joined the academy at Rennes in France at the age of 13. In 2014, he moved to Monaco where he contributed to Monaco’s Ligue title as well as being named in the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League squad of the season. In 2017, he joined Chelsea for £40 million.
13- Mamadou Sakho
This Senegalese talent plays as a center back for the English club Crystal Palace and the France national team. Sakho began his career at Paris FC before moving to Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy in 2002. In 2007, on his league debut, he became the youngest player ever to captain a Ligue 1 club. With PSG, he won all four domestic trophies. In 2013, he transferred to Liverpool but was bought by his current club in 2017. Sakho represented France at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
14- Yaya Touré
Is an Ivorian professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder for Premier League club Manchester City. He also played for and captained the Ivory Coast’s national team. He played as a center-back for Barcelona in the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final. However, he has spent the majority of his career as a box-to-box midfielder for club and country, where he has been regarded as one of the world’s best players in his position. He was voted African Footballer of the Year for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.  Touré began his playing career at Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas, where he made his debut at age 18. He had stints with Beveren, Metalurh Donetsk, Olympiacos and Monaco before moving to Barcelona in 2007 where he won six trophies. In 2010, Touré moved to Premier League club Manchester City when he helped them earn their first league title in 44 years. He represented Ivory Coast from 2004 to 2015 as the 2006, 2010, and 2014 FIFA World Cup tournaments. He also represented them in six Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015, helping them finish runner-up in 2006 and 2012 while captaining them to victory in 2015. He is the younger brother of fellow footballer Kolo Touré, who was his teammate at Manchester City and on the national team.
15- Pape Souaré
The Senegalese professional footballer who plays as a left back for Premier League club Crystal Palace, he won the French league with Lille in 2010-2011.
16- Bakary Sako
He’s a professional Malian footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder for Crystal Palace. He represented the Malian national team in several competitions and he won the English Football League One in 2013–14 with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
17- Cenk Tosun
A Turkish professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Everton and the Turkey national team, he played for the German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt before transferring to Gaziantepspor in 2011 where he won the Spor Toto Cup in 2012. In 2014, he was signed by one of Istanbul’s giants, Beşiktaş, and won two Süper Lig titles. Tosun made his international debut for Turkey in 2013 and played at UEFA Euro 2016.
18- Idrissa Gueye
Is a Senegalese professional footballer who plays as a defensive midfielder for Premier League club Everton and the Senegal national team. He won the French Ligue Un in 2010-2011 with Lille OSC.
19- Oumar Niasse
He’s a Senegalese striker at the Premier League club Everton and the Senegal national team. He played top-flight football in Senegal, Norway, Turkey, Russia, and England. Niasse won the 2011 Senegal Premier League with Ouakam and scored in Lokomotiv Moscow’s win in the 2015 Russian Cup Final. He signed for Everton in 2016. Niasse made his full international debut for Senegal in 2013.
20- Abdelhamid Sabiri
Is a Moroccan footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Huddersfield Town. He was raised in Frankfurt and holds German nationality.