Egyptian legend Mohamed Aboutrika, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest African midfielders of all time, has been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.
Aboutrika, 40, who has lived since his 2013 soccer retirement in exile in Qatar, where he works as a sports analyst for the beIN sports network, was found guilty of tax evasion.
According to Associated Press, the verdict, handed down on Monday by the Cairo misdemeanour court, was delivered in absentia.
Under the law, the verdict can be appealed and if Aboutrika returns to Egypt, but he would have to stand a new trial.
However, reports in Egyptian media claim the Red Devils icon still has the option to pay a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds, or R16 000, to have his sentence suspended and the verdict can be appealed.
Egypt froze Aboutrika’s assets in 2015 and placed him on a no-fly list in 2017 over allegations of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have labelled a ‘terrorist group’.
The Brotherhood emerged as the country’s dominant political force after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising but was later purged in 2013, when the army, led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected but divisive president.
Aboutrika played for Cairo’s Al-Ahly club and was central to two of Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.