February 5, 2012

Politics and Football in Egypt Historically

I haven't been much of a Football fan for years. I actually got disinterested last time Egypt qualified for the World cup after a dismal performance on the pitch that many considered as an historic achievement. My expectations, heightened by a good game against the Netherlands, were completely bashed . I could have recovered and maybe keep watching or even supporting Football but for the rise of Al Gohary to absolute Stardom and even as a regime symbol. That probably gave me a stroke that closed down my brain towards Football. All that is left is a heavy dislike of media that portrayed a lost campaign as a great achievement to be proud of and pity for those who fell for this brainwash. The regime has been using Football as leverage to keep crowds under control the last year of the Royal regime the league championship was not held. After all, stadiums are a crowd attracting magnet  out of which demonstrations can erupt uncontrolled.
Since the beginning of the military coup later renamed 1952 revolution, Football was used as a symbol of return to normality. Then in the coup within the coup of 1954 , the regime cancelled the Championship while it had started. Probably again out of fear from anti-regime and anti-military protests, the league championship was cancelled in 1967 and kept being cancelled till 1970 when a trial of restarting it failed and had to be discontinued, in 1972 though the Championship was played and the title went To Ghazl El Mehalla - in a trial to keep the workers happy and ready for a war effort I suppose. In 1973, it was once more unfinished, having been halted in October for the war. Since then though it went on a nearly uninterrupted run but for the 1990 season when again it was halted officially on Al Gohary's request  for preparing for the above mentioned World Cup. Once again, however, I suspect it was out of fear of anti Gulf War demonstrations erupting in the stadiums, as the Egyptian military had excellent relations with he US and probably knew for a fact that the War was going to be launched.
In another obvious marriage between Football and politics, the regime tried to use the seemingly easy game against Algeria in 2009 as a PR operation, sending along with the team a delegation headed by Gamal and Alaa Moubarak. Unfortunately, the Egyptian team was not up to the task and the whole lift-up operation went in complete disarray when, adding insult to injury, the Algerian supporters beat up the Egyptian delegation after their team won the game. It was then that for the first time Alaa Moubarak got out of the shade and was interviewed in many a media outlet .  The unrest that followed took a couple of weeks to calm down.
A small History of the Ultras The Telegraph  

 The Ultras whose demands since they were organized was mainly the right of  supporting their teams the way they saw fit. The refusal by the authorities to yield to their demands and the use of undue force against them  has developed a blood feud between ultras and regime forces. At the beginning of the events in January 2011, the  Ultras joined the protesters and were the main reason why the people succeeded in breaking the police cordons and finally on Jan 28 to overtake the Square for good. As shown in the linked article, Some now believe that this was the reason of the Port Said massacre and claim that the police looked the other way and did not interfere because of that feud. Some even claim that the Police and their informers were instrumental in the heating up of issues and that they had a dirty hand into the matter. If proven, I would not be surprised.

Football in Egypt is the secret but tumultuous lover of  Bolitics.

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