Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is one of six TIME 100 cover stars, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people.
Other athletes on the list include the NBA’s LeBron James, U.S. soccer’s Alex Morgan, tennis player Naomi Osaka, middle distance runner Caster Semenya, golfer Tiger Woods, and pro gamer “Ninja” (Richard Tyler Blevins).
While this is the first time Salah has featured on the list, Woods – who won the Masters on Sunday in one of sport’s greatest comeback stories – has featured three times and LA Lakers’ James four.
Two-time grand slam champion Osaka, forward Morgan – who is expected to star in this year’s Women’s World Cup – and double Olympic champion Semenya are among a record 48 women on the list.
A breakthrough season for Salah
Salah’s global popularity surged last year when he enjoyed a breakthrough season with Liverpool, scoring 44 goals in the 2017-18 campaign and helping the English Premier League side reach the Champions League final.
While goals haven’t flowed as freely for the Egyptian this campaign, the forward is still this season’s joint-leading scorer in the EPL and his wonder strike last weekend helped Liverpool defeat Chelsea, continuing the Reds’ pursuit of a first Premier League title.
“Mo Salah is a better human being than he is a football player. And he’s one of the best football players in the world,” writes comedian and Liverpool fan John Oliver in his TIME’s dedication to the player.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional athlete in any sport less affected by their success or status than Mo, which is incredible because I can’t imagine the kind of pressure that comes with the intensity of adoration he receives.
“Mo is an iconic figure for Egyptians, Scousers and Muslims the world over, and yet he always comes across as a humble, thoughtful, funny man who isn’t taking any of this too seriously.
“As a footballer, he plays with an infectious joy. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be able to play as well as him, and watching his face light up after he does something incredible, you get the reassuring sense that it’s exactly as fun as you’d want it to be. I absolutely love him.”
Salah is adored in his native Egypt, and former Egyptian footballer Mido told CNN last year that he is the greatest player the country has ever produced.
Meanwhile, Salah has also become a firm fan favorite in Liverpool since arriving from AS Roma in 2017, signing a long-term deal with the club in July last year.
His Liverpool side faces Porto in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal clash on Wednesday having secured a 2-0 advantage at Anfield.