Political protests on the pitch


Police, what police? Middle East Online, 2-1-12

In Egypt two of the top football (soccer) teams, al-Masri and al-Ahly, played a game today; afterwards the fan got together to celebrate football, team spirit and, in the grand tradition of our species, killing your opponents.   The president of al-Masri has resigned and the BBC is reporting that the Egyptian parliament will meet to discuss the violence.  The Arab press is full of analysis, the Egyptian government is promising  to investigate in the grand style of Bob Dylan – “two men died neath the Mississippi moon, somebody better investigate soon.”

Only in Port Said,  seventy-three fans died on the pitch, someone better apply the switch.  The violence started immediately after the game, the winning team, al-Ahly was rushed off to protect their lives.  The ensuing riot was free to play itself out without any interference from the police or army.  The Muslim Brotherhood accuses Mubarak supporters of fostering the violence; the liberals blame the army, police and government thugs; and the government is blaming the fans of al -Ahlry because of their recent political activities.  It has a long tradition, the club was formed a hundred years ago in an anti-colonial spirit and uses the flag of the Khedive government as its banner.   The attackers are supporters of al-Masri.  What is in a name? Al-Masri means the Egyptian, while al-Ahly is the “national”; are they metaphors for the future of Egypt, thugs and violence and a government willing to step in and shut down the thugs?

Thugs is a  key word in Egypt these days; the government suspended the energy measures that have been in place since the days of Nasser – declaring only that thugs will be dealt with as before – no rights, jail, beatings and the like.  A lovely word, and just who is a thug? Why your enemies of course.  Also today, in Cairo another football stadium was set a fire by fans protesting a canceled game because of the violence in Port Said.  No moral here, and it may pass without leaving a ripple, but on the other hand this may be symbol of the 2012 version of the Arab Spring. No democracy, political or economic freedom to be found on the football pitch.  Who knows, they may be playing football in Tahrir Square on Fridays after prayers this year.

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