Football’s world governing body FIFA has said two votes from Egypt for national star Mohamed Salah did not count in its Men’s Player of the Year ballot because they were in capital letters.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi won the award for a record sixth time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Liverpool forward Salah finished fourth – 20 points behind Messi.
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) questioned why ballot papers on behalf of its national team coach and captain were not included in a FIFA document published after Monday’s ceremony.
In a statement on Thursday, FIFA said the signatures on Egypt’s ballots “were in capital letters and thus seemed not valid (not authentic)”.
The football body added that the “voting forms were also not signed by the [federation] general secretary which is mandatory”.
FIFA said its voting is monitored by independent auditors and confirmed Egypt “received two reminders to submit the properly signed voting forms on August 19”.
The voting closed on August 21.
FIFA did not clarify whether the final standings would have been any different if the Egyptian votes had been valid.
Although Egypt’s votes from their captain Ahmed Elmohamady and the then-coach Shawky Gharib did not count, their media representative Hany Danial’s choices (Sadio Mane, Ronaldo and Salah) were listed on FIFA’s website.
However, Amr el-Ganainy, interim head of the EFA, said he called Salah to clarify that the voting error was “unintentional”.
“I phoned Salah to clarify that it was an unintentional mistake, and that the EFA supports him and all the foreign-based players,” el-Ganainy was quotedas saying by local media on Wednesday.
“I told Salah that whoever committed this administrative mistake will be punished.”
Salah, a national icon in the North African country, removed any reference to Egypt from his official Twitter profile in the wake of Monday’s awards ceremony and his Twitter bio now reads “Footballer for Liverpool FC”.
“Whatever they do to try to change my love for Egypt, they will not succeed,” Salah, who has previously clashed with the EFA over the unauthorised use of his image, posted on Twitter.
The captain and coach of every national football federation affiliated to FIFA get to vote on the Player of the Year award, along with a media representative from each country.
The EFA was in turmoil in July and August after its leadership resigned due to the national team’s round of 16 exit from the African Cup of Nations it hosted.
In August, FIFA sent an emergency management team to run the Egyptian football federation.
Last year, Salah was named Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year, in England, after he scored 44 goals for Liverpool in all competitions.
Earlier this year, the Egyptian striker helped his club clinch its sixth European Champions League title and became the eighth Liverpool player to score 50 Premier League goals.