As the game progressed the Egyptians looked more sullen and spoke even less.
I poked my Canadian coworker.
This is strange. It’s like the Egyptians are bottling their anger and disappointment.
Though no sports fan, I enjoy sitting back and socializing over games with enthusiastic friends, sharing their excitement and learning a thing or two about the complicated world of sports so many swear by. (It’s similar to my fascination with religion…)
Yet, this game,the outcome of which would determine whether Egypt or Algeria would compete in the World Cup in South Africa, was different. No one talked, snacked or drank and tension filled the air. Though all day Egyptians had laughed, dawned flags and face-paint, now few looked like they were actually enjoying the action.
When Algeria scored the single goal toward the beginning of the match, there was complete silence. Did that really, happen? I squinted at the new “1” marking Algeria’s score, the replays and those around me. Though I was at an extremely crowded outdoor cafe, with tons more surrounding, there were no boos, or any other insults yelled at the offending goal.
Maybe they’re collectively not optimists? I wondered. During the previous game, which led them to this tie breaker, they scored in the first moment and last. They had needed to win by at least two points to advance and they had done it. After such a victory, the lack of optimism throughout the entire game surprised me. Rather than being a fun, social experience, the game seemed intensely personal to the Egyptian viewers.
The game ended and spectators rose and dispersed. The loudest noise was employers at the cafe forcefully stacking the cheap plastic chairs. We hurried out of their way.
The people can’t handle it, he explained. They’d go crazy. There’d be riots.
He also thought it would lead to less opposition toward Mubarak because as the primary supporters of the football team, Egyptians would environ the regime with their nationalistic aspirations for the team. Driving away from the cafe, our cab driver shared his views.
The next evening, another Egyptian friend and I sat in traffic in Zamalek. A natural occurrence in Cairo, we didn’t think much of it until we encountered riot police blocking entire streets and gangs of screaming boys donning Egypt flags and loud words.
In the past days, what seemed like it was going to be a losing M3lesh (whoops) for Egypt, quickly blocked from memory, has turned into a national and international attention steeling debacle. Though security concerns were present from the beginning, (BBC reported 15,000 security forces were at attention at the game in Sudan) because of pre-game violence, including Egypt attacking and injuring Algerian players in their bus and Algerians ransacking Egyptian businesses in Algeria, the level has quickly escalated and gained international attention.
Last week both nations recalled their ambassadors, leading the debate to switch from football to Arab unity and the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, used the opening of the World Economic Forum to call for peace between the two Arab nations. BBC has also reported that Amr Moussa asked Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi to mediate. So practical…
Verdict of the moment? Seems like Egypt might as have well won the match for all the trouble and politics being squeezed out of the plays.
Some links I referred to–though I’m in no way saying they’re all reliable news sources–part of the fun is the rumors. Part of the interest is the unverified facts and motives of the reports.