Egypt’s Troubles Delight Algerian Football Fans
ADRIAN Chen has piece on how Egypt’s football fans are fomenting change. Forget the Muslim Brotherhood, Wikileaks, the death of Khalid Said and Elsaid Bilal, mummies or whatever else is being attributed as being behind the protests, Chen wants us to look at the country’s football fans and their readiness for battle.
These guys are better at tangling with cops than just about anyone.
Egyptian blogger Alaa abd El-Fatah tells Al Jazeera:
“The ultras – the football fan associations – have played a more significant role than any political group on the ground at this moment.”
James Dorsey says of the Al Ahly team’s supporters:
“Soccer fans constitute a well-organized and feared pillar of the marshalling grassroots coalition.”
Football does have the power to unite a country. But the hooligans scrapping with police are not taking on the state; they are just up for a brawl. Football is not about honour; football is about bias, winning and sadism.
In November 2009, football fans rioted in Cairo. Their ire was directed not towards President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. These fans were attacking the Algerian embassy. Egypt had lost to Algeria in a World Cup playoff in Khartoum, Sudan. (Egypt has wanted to play the decider in Tunisia but lost the coin toss.) In the build up to the match, Algerians had attacked Egyptian business in Algiers. After Algeria had won 1-0, there were reports of Algerian fans attacking Egyptian fans with “weapons, knives, swords and flares“.
(Background: Not long before the big match, the Algerian national team bus had been attacked in Cairo. “Three players were reportedly injured, including Rafik Saifi, who was hit on his hand, and Rafik Halliche and Khaled Lemmouchia, who were both struck in the head“.)
After Egypt’s defeat in Sudan, Alaa Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak son, appeared on the TV news to say:
“When you insult my dignity … I will beat you on the head.”
Amr Higazi, a university student, told AFP:
“We should treat Algeria like any country that has declared war on us.”
Mohammed Fouad, a popular Egyptian singing star who attended the Khartoum match, opined:
“If the Jews were beating us, even they wouldn’t have done it so savagely.”
President Mubarak spoke of his country’s “humiliation“:
“I want to say in clear words that the dignity of Egyptians is part of the dignity of Egypt. Egypt does not tolerate those who hurt the dignity of its sons. We don’t want to be drawn into impulsive reactions. I am agitated too, but I restrain myself.”
But was the violence symptomatic of a greater ill? One Algerian blogger noted:
“The escalating violence is a symptom of a nation in decline – of a population that once considered themselves to be the beating heart of the Arab world, but who now find themselves disenfranchised at home and disrespected abroad,” said Ahmed Aiesa, 23, who was among the protesters.
“Egyptians keep losing their rights in Egypt and outside of Egypt, no one stands up, nobody protects us. You’re oppressed inside your country and outside your country.”
The much mooted domino effect might only happen if the Arabs can form a unified football team. And play Israel every week…