Sunday, August 25, 2019 | ePaper

Egyptian soccer fans toss up cheering for or against Algeria

  • Print


AFP, Cairo :
After Egypt's humiliating exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, their loyal fan base's loyalties are divided between supporting their 'Arab brothers' embodied in Algeria for this Friday's final - or not.
The Desert Foxes or Desert Fighters, as they are affectionately known, must beat Senegal to clinch a second continental title on the freshly manicured Cairo International Stadium field.
Ten years ago, the same pitch became a lethal site of violent clashes between Algerian and Egyptian fans.
Old grudges borne out of a historic soccer rivalry that has festered in the last decade have opened up again with Algeria showing excellent form throughout the tournament.
"In terms of performance, they deserve to be in the final and to win it all," says Mohamed, 32, an accountant who has attended some of Algeria's games.
"But I hope they don't win the tournament…because of the bickering".
Egypt was eliminated in the round of 16 losing to South Africa, to much dismay from its fans prompting a wholesale resignation from the country's football association.
During the semi-finals, wounds were pricked again after Algerians and Egyptians traded a war of words and shoved each other after Egyptian fans enthusiastically supported Nigeria in the loss.
With decades of taunts and close World Cup qualifiers pitting the North African footballing heavyweights against each other, Cairo Stadium hosted a tense match that descended into chaos.
Dozens of Egyptian and Algerian fans violently clashed in a crucial World Cup qualifier. It triggered a diplomatic crisis between both countries. Calls for calm on both sides were not heeded as the respective countries' press and politicians continued to muddy the waters.
Since the start of the regional competition, Egypt's security presence has been stepped up especially around stadiums. Safety has been a major challenge and priority for the hosts.
"So far, there hasn't been any problems, quarrels or security issues," said an Interior Ministry official who requested anonymity.
"The celebrations of Algerian fans in the streets took place alongside Egyptians without any visible anger or disturbance," he told AFP.
Despite the generational strains that stretch back decades between the two countries, many Egyptians have also lent their support to Algeria and its soccer stars in the name of Arab unity.
"I'll support them because we are all Arabs but in the main I don't really show them love after what happened," said Ali, a 23-year-old student, with little enthusiasm.
"I was 13 at the time so I hardly remember - a lot of things happened afterwards," said the Al-Ahly fan, the local powerhouse which has won multiple African club titles.
Ali remembers the deadly violence in Egyptian stadiums in domestic league matches which killed over a hundred fans in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Authorities, which have been accused of instigating the violence when they clashed with fans, have re-instated a total ban on attending domestic games which is still in effect. It has been relaxed recently but authorities must approve fan attendance using their national ID.
"After what happened in the 2009 match, people started cheering for anyone playing against Algeria," sports journalist Hatem Maher recounts.
But, he sees the question of whether to cheer for Algeria in the upcoming match shows signs of "a new and positive debate" emerging.
"Tensions have markedly fizzled out," Maher explains attributing it to the ascent of a new generation of fans but also the "political changes" in Egypt.

More News For this Category

Kosovo, an unexpected world judo stronghold

Kosovo, an unexpected world judo stronghold

The young and tiny nation of Kosovo has emerged as a world judo power, its unexpected success spearheaded by diminutive Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi.Eleven years after it gained independence from

Nishikori ponders mixed doubles with Osaka at Tokyo Olympics

Nishikori ponders mixed doubles with Osaka at Tokyo Olympics

AFP, New York :A Japanese dream duo of Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori could come together for mixed doubles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.World number one Osaka, the reigning US

Serena-Sharapova and Federer play Monday night at US Open

Serena-Sharapova and Federer play Monday night at US Open

AFP, New York :Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in Monday night's first feature match at the US Open with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer following them on

Women's hockey team to play fourth practice match today

Bangladesh women's hockey team will square off visiting Sports Authority of India (SAI) national women's hockey team in the fourth practice match of the six-match series scheduled to be held

American Park seizes LPGA Canadian Open lead

American Park seizes LPGA Canadian Open lead

AFP, Toronto :American Annie Park fired an eagle and seven birdies in a seven-under par 65 on Thursday to grab a one-shot lead in the LPGA's Canadian Women's Open,

New-look Juventus begin Serie A defence without ailing Sarri

New-look Juventus begin Serie A defence without ailing Sarri

AFP, Milan :Juventus begin their Serie A campaign at Parma on Saturday looking to push their record Scudetto run to nine but with a different style of football under

Serena, Sharapova to meet at US Open

Serena, Sharapova to meet at US Open

AP, New York  :Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will finally meet in the U.S. Open, and they'll do it in their very first match.A long-awaited Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown

Christian Coleman under investigation for three alleged missed drugs tests

Christian Coleman under investigation for three alleged missed drugs tests

BBC Online :American sprinter Christian Coleman is under investigation over concerns he may have missed three drugs tests, BBC Sport has been told.If found guilty he would face an

BKSP, Warriors emerge champions in day-long Basketball

Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Prothistan (BKSP) and Warriors White team emerged champions in their respective boys and girls' competitions of the day-long U-14 three-on- three Basketball tournament held on Friday

Djokovic, Osaka named US Open top seeds

Djokovic, Osaka named US Open top seeds

AFP, New York :World number ones and defending champions Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka were named as top seeds for the US Open on Wednesday.Djokovic, who will be chasing a