MENAFN - Arab News
Egypt, Algeria: Football fanaticism
(MENAFN - Arab News) The dispute between Egypt and Algeria over World Cup qualifiers played in Cairo and Khartoum should never have happened. Both countries should have taken a united stand against football's worldwide scourge — hooliganism. Being an enthusiastic fan is one thing, but it's quite another to translate that natural enthusiasm into violence against players and supporters. Such behavior does not equate to patriotism. It's simply a stain on a nation's reputation and discredits the sport itself.
Intense rivalry between two sides fiercely competing for a World Cup place that has eluded them for decades is understandable. But that competitive spirit should revolve around players' skills and tenacity rather than who can throw the biggest rocks, shout the loudest invective, or burn the most flags.
A lot of people got hurt in this debacle. After their bus was hit by projectiles in Cairo, images of Algerian players with blood streaming down their faces were captured on a mobile phone while some 20 more Algerians were attacked in Egypt.
Then, during a spate of tit-for-tat attacks, Egyptian businesses in the Algerian capital were trashed — including Orascom, owned by billionaire Naguib Sawaris — and ordinary Egyptians were attacked in southern Algeria as well as in Sudan.
It's unfortunate, too, that Egyptians heading for the Algerian Embassy in Cairo to vent their ire saw fit to smash shop windows and damage cars that belong to their compatriots. If Algeria was the object of their displeasure then their motive for destroying and using insecticide to fire Egyptian-owned property escapes me.
The fact is that hooligans of whatever nationality don't require a motive. All they need is a flimsy excuse to inflict their pent-up aggression on anyone and anything that happens to cross their path. Yet, very often, because they are perceived by authorities as football fans rather than anti-government elements or religious extremists, they get away with it.
It's unfortunate that neither side has made any effort to be conciliatory. On the contrary, one Algerian player told the Egyptians something on the lines of 'Shut-up, we won, so get over it!' In the meantime, instead of offering recompense to Orascom, that employs thousands of Algerians and services 10 million mobile subscribers, the Algerian authorities chose this sensitive moment to slap the multi-national with a 600 million bill for back taxes.
Egypt responded by recalling its ambassador to Algiers for "consultations" and warning that it will not allow its citizens to be harmed or humiliated. Even Sudan has jumped into the melee by summoning Egypt's envoy in Khartoum to protest reports in the Egyptian media maligning its security arrangements.
It would be a great shame if this bitterness were allowed to fester. It's actually much ado about nothing, although most Egyptians and Algerians don't see it that way. For them, their national pride is at stake although, in reality, there should be no pride in mindless violence committed by crazed hooligans; national or otherwise. National pride does not reside in the abilities of over-paid, trumped-up youth to kick a ball into a net. It should, instead, rest in a country's technological, scientific, medical, artistic, literary, educational, architectural and economic achievements along with the standard of living enjoyed by its people, its record of human rights and the humanitarian values upon which it stands. When future historians write of our era, they won't be appraising nations based on the number of football matches won. In the great scheme of things, last week's play-offs have less meaning than a single reed floating down a stream.
In the end, football is just a game that has been turned into the new opiate of the masses. It generally offers the opportunity for people to blow off steam in a controlled environment. It gives man an outlet for his inherent warlike instincts. It's entertaining, exciting and fun. But it's not brain surgery.
When Arab history is writ, it will feature such names as Dr. Magdy Yacoub, Ben Bella, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat, King Abdul Aziz, Yasser Arafat, Ahmed Zewail, Naguib Mahfouz, Umm Kulthum, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Battuta. In 50 years time, will anyone even remember the names Mohamed Zidan or Antar Yahia? This isn't meant to demean these excellent Egyptian and Algerian players; rather to put their achievements into perspective.
The mesmerizing effect that soccer has on populaces around the world is worrying. It sends them to sleep in such a way that they are immune to serious issues. This was particularly evident in Egypt when Israel invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006 when televisions in Cairo cafes were invariably tuned to Zamalek-Al Ahli matches on local stations rather than satellite news channels. It was a similar story when Gaza was being bombed last winter. Where was the outrage on the so-called Arab street then? Where was the national pride when women and children were being incinerated? At a time when Arab unity has rarely been as crucial, Algerians and Egyptians need to rearrange their priorities.
This tiff has been greatly overblown and should be buried sooner rather than later. Both countries share so much. Both are predominately Muslim. Both are Arab. Both are African and both are battling religious extremism. They share a history of foreign occupation and revolution. They should remember how they came together to free Algeria from the French yoke and how they fought side by side during the 1973 war with Israel.
Are they seriously going to allow soccer thugs to tear them apart? As someone who has lived for extensive periods in both countries when I had the opportunity make so many cherished Algerian and Egyptian friends, I feel personally pained at this growing divide over nothing. If they only knew it both peoples have so much in common in terms of family values, hospitality, warmth, generosity and good humor. They also share a hot-tempered nature when they feel their dignity has been impugned, which is the driving force behind the current contretemps.
Their Arab friends should work toward reconciling the two parties once the heat of the moment has dissipated. In the words of President Anwar Sadat, "There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones."
By Linda Heard
MENA News Headlines
|Mar 10 2014||SW China Forest on Fire, Casualties Unknown ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Firefighters are battling to extinguish a forest fire in southwest China's Yunnan Province, according to China's News (Xinhua). A total of 2,320 people, including 250 ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Waiting and Searching for Missing Malaysian Flight Continue ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Chinese warship Mianyang has arrived at the waters suspected to be the site of the missing Beijing-bound Malaysian jetliner, military sources said on Monday. The warship ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Amnesty Accuses Syrian Forces of Committing War Crimes in Yarmouk ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Amnesty International has accused the Syrian government forces of starving the population and targeting doctors in Yarmouk refugee camp in the outskirts of the capital ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim Wins Men's High Jump Gold Medal ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim claimed gold medal in the Men's High Jump Final during day three of the IAAF World Indoor Championships at Ergo Arena on Sunday. The ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Al Sadd and Al Arabi Share Spoils in Qatar Stars League ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Al Arabi and Al Sadd drew Saturday 1-1 in the 22nd round of Qatar Stars League.
Ibrahim Khalfan took the lead for Al Sadd in the 70th minute. It took Al Arabi only ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Kuwait Probes Deaths of Dolphins along Its Coast ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Kuwait's Environment Public Authority (EPA) has launched a probe into the causes of dolphin deaths along the country's coasts overs the past few days. EPA's Deputy ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Qatar - Filmmaker Noujaim to Address Northwestern University Students ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Academy Award-Nominated Director of The Square, Jehane Noujaim will be the graduation speaker at Northwestern University in Qatar's ceremony on May 4, the university ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Ukraine Could Sign EU Agreement Later in March ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Ukraine said Sunday it could sign later this month part of a crucial EU agreement for greater integration, even as the former Soviet state remains in a state of upheaval. ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Public Security Director General Inaugurates 30th GCC Traffic Week ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) HE Director General of Public Security Staff Major General Saad Bin Jassim Al Khulaifi inaugurated on Sunday the events and activities of 30th GCC Traffic Week in the ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Arab FMs Approve Agenda of Kuwait Summit ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Kuwait's First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said Sunday the 141st session of the Arab League Council has approved the ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Qatar - HE the Prime Minister Condoles Afghan President ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani has sent a cable of condolences to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the death ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Omani Official Meets Qatari Administrative Development Minister ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Oman's deputy premier for cabinet affairs, Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, conferred on Sunday with Isa Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi , the Qatari administrative development ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Qatar - HH the Emir Sends Cable of Condolences to Afghan President ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has sent a cable of condolences to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the death of First Vice-President Marshal Mohammad Qasim ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Electricity Crisis Expected in Gaza as Fuel Runs Dry ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) The last shipment of Qatar-donated diesel -- used to fuel the Gaza Strip's sole power plant -- is expected to run out within four or five days, a Palestinian official ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Yemeni President Meets UN Official ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi met here on Sunday with UN Secretary-General Assistant and Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar.
Yemeni President said in a ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Six Nations Join Massive Sea Search Efforts ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Six countries are involved in the search for the missing Malaysian airliner.
Search planes and ships from Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, the U.S
and the ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Attorney General Sets Up Environmental and Municipal Prosecution ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News AHE Attorney General Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri issued a decision to establish a prosecution dealing with environmental and municipal cases.
The decision stipulated that ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Iraq Bomb Attack Toll Rises ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) A suspected suicide bomber has killed at least 32 people at a security checkpoint in Iraq, authorities have said.
In the deadliest of a series of attacks on Sunday, ...|
|Mar 10 2014||Saudi FM Calls For Syrian Opposition Taking Over Syria Seat atArab League ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal on Sunday urged the Arab League to allow the opposition National Syrian Coalition to take over the seat of Syria at the ...|
|Mar 10 2014||More Syrian Refugees Cross into Jordanian Border ,Qatar News Agency|
|(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) A total of 1944 Syrian refugees, of different ages including the wounded and sick , entered Jordan through various illegal border points during the past 72 hours. The ...|