Avoiding the Egypt-Algeria crisis

Let’s think about the events that followed the Egypt-Algeria soccer match in Sudan differently from the discourse that is now taking place in Egypt.

This is not the first time Algeria enters the World Cup. It happened in 1982 and 1986. On both occasions, Algeria failed to win the cup. This will happen again this time. I am not saying that because I do not want Algeria to win the cup, but because Algeria is not as professional as Brazil when it comes to football.

Egypt entered the World Cup twice before, as well, in 1934 and 1990. Both times, Egypt, like Algeria, failed to win. This is merely because we are not like Argentina in terms of players’ capabilities and international professionalism.

We should remember that most, if not all, violence perpetrated by the Algerians took place in the wake of 14 November match in Cairo. The violence was not simply due to the Sudan game. An assault on Orascom premises in Algeria took place after the 14 November match, not the one in Sudan. The EgyptAir office in Algeria was also attacked after the first match and not the second one. Moreover, all of the clashes and assaults on the Egyptian fans in Khartoum came as a result of 14 November game, as the Algerians won the game in Sudan. There was nothing in the Sudan game that urged the Algerians to go on rampage and carry out assaults against the fans of the rival team.

What do these facts imply? They imply that if we had had more insight after the 14 November encounter and before the Sudan showdown, we would have realized that the Algerians were agitated and over-eager. This is regardless of whether or not this agitation was justified. (I believe it was not, but I will discuss that further in my column tomorrow.)

I ask again, what does all this mean? A rational answer would be that whether Egypt or Algeria had won the match in Khartoum, the victory would not have brought either of them any good. Good evidence for this is the result of the two times both teams qualified for the cup. The Egyptian team’s defeat was inevitable, whether by Algeria or by any other team playing the South Africa cup. The same applies to the Algerian side.

A predictive reading of events could have led to a wise decision of not traveling to Sudan, given the signs of danger that preceded the game. At that time, we were still enjoying the taste of the Cairo victory, and the Algerians were still under the spell of defeat. A decision not to go to Sudan would not have been a surrender by the Egyptian team, but would have rather been a logical protest against an atmosphere that was too tense for a football match. If we had avoided the game, we would have also avoided the herd mentality that has been, and still is, steering us. We could have avoided the crisis into which our country has been thrown.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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