The desperately defeated seek victory in football

When football erupted into violence between Egyptian and Algerian fans over the World Cup qualifiers in Cairo and Khartoum last week, alarmed commentators asked what Arab fraternity had come to.
The Algerian Fennecs take on the Egyptian Pharaohs for a place in the 2010 World Cup on November 14.
The Algerian Fennecs take on the Egyptian Pharaohs for a place in the 2010 World Cup on November 14.

“It’s sport,” says an Egyptian on youtube. “May the best win!” adds his Algerian friend in the same video.

A group entitled “I love the country of a million martyrs... It’s only a match” has gathered support on Facebook.

“Far from conspiracy theories, the biggest benefactor in this media storm is certainly the Egyptian regime who is delighted to see the people concentrated on secondary issues,” wrote Alexandria-based blogger Ismail Alexandrani.

“We have huge problems in our country that we have to solve... The Israelis are laughing at us,” said Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi from Egypt, urging the crowds to use their brains. Algerian scholar Sheikh Abasi Madani echoed his concern.

Egyptian writer Ahmad Udwan asks what makes Egyptians and Algerians turn out to the stadium in thousands, and take the victory of one football team over the other so seriously.

The chronic football headache

By Ahmad Udwan

I don’t love or hate football, but I do hate problems, instability, and everything else that calls for disregarding reason. I do not believe that football, matches or sports on the whole call for these trivialities, but what is happening these days is enough to make one nauseous.

The angry have occupied the stadium, and sport no longer means decorum, taste or morals, but instead calls for politics between the feet of competing players and invites strife and hatred between peoples.

Those who follow the performance of football teams to the crowd’s cheering will find inconceivable the extent to which this issue has taken over people’s minds at the cost of matters important to the entity of Arab states.

Football has become a field to ignite wars between the Arab peoples and created a great rift between them despite the religious, blood and linguistic ties they have shared for centuries.

Forget about the analysis of the match. Crowds were prepared with flags representing their country, even with flags drawn on faces. The lion’s share of the joy was for the general public and the poor. I don’t know how, but those who complain about a lack of bread at home buy a flag costing over EGP 50.

It seems that we live in a time when victories have become cherished and setbacks common, and there is nothing left for the desperately defeated of Egypt and Algeria but to take victories hostage to sit on the throne of football.

It seems that the only function of the flags is to bring together these peoples towards what could make some of them as if hypnotized, to turn their necks towards flimsy issues that call for nothing but chaos, to lead these drowning people into poverty and ignorance about demanding their rights.

This is, indisputably, a true picture. The Arab media on all levels is an influential factor on the minds of society that can convince the swimmer among people of important issues. Where was the Arab media during these setbacks?

Who does not believe in the influence of the flags on people like me to sit in one of Cairo’s many cafes to sample the enthusiasm of those present, the joy we have forgotten in consecutive years of setbacks and, as one supporter explained to me, to cheer him up from his troubles and the social, political and everyday defeats of most?  

A good study is needed here on the influence of this phenomenon in rallying thousands of thousands in Egypt and elsewhere intoxicated with victory, while, when Gaza was choking in its own blood, we witnessed only flimsy protests that did not match Palestine’s bleeding.

It is not strange that these protests were oppressed by the authorities, while the destruction during the football demonstrations was no harm. Here is the great difference. Who do you think is the winner and who the loser?