New Chelsea Player Refused to Shake Hands With Israelis

Mohamad Salah, who signed for Chelsea this week, avoided the pre-match handshake when his previous team played Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Chelsea Football Club's new Egyptian midfielder once refused to shake hands with Israeli footballers after apparently being pressured by extreme groups in his home country, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Mohamad Salah, who signed for Chelsea this week for £11 million (63.8 million shekels,) sparked controversy when his previous side, the Swiss club FC Basle, played Maccabi Tel Aviv in Champions League qualifying matches last year.

As the teams lined up for the customary handshake before the first leg of their contest, Salah instead went to the side of the pitch to change his boots.

Rejecting calls to refuse to travel to Israel for the return game, Salah elected to fist-pump Maccabi Tel Aviv players, rather than shake hands.

Basle and Chelsea accepted Salah’s explanation that his perhaps ill-advised actions were designed to try to please everybody.

He scored in the return game after allegedly saying he would do everything possible to "stop the Zionist flag" appearing in the Champions League, Europe's premier club competition.

He has repeatedly denied that making the anti-Israel statements attributed to him at the time of the game. “If somebody has read something political from me, then it’s not me,” he said during a press conference in Basle.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and director Eugene Tenenbaum are both Jewish and supporters of Israeli causes. The Premier League club has not commented on Salah's actions. 

There are currently no Israeli footballers in the Premier League.