I am sure that many people are wondering what Mubarak is playing at after the hysterical and embarrassing theatrics that the Egyptian media arsenal has treated us to for the past week (and which intensified alarmingly following the defeat of the Egyptian national team in the play-off in Sudan). I certainly have been wondering what he could possibly hope to achieve from this masquerade. Initially, I read the analyses which interpreted it all as a carefully crafted plan to propel Gamal Mubarak into his father’s presidential spot, which he has been warming-up for his son for the past 30-odd years, keeping Egypt under the longest emergency state rule in modern history. This coup would have made little Gamal the legitimate heir to the, erm, republic. I read these analyses without much conviction because it all seemed so surreal, so far-fetched, so desperate. To me, it was simply a football match which could not possibly sustain all the political accoutrements that were being slammed upon it. How could anyone get to become president by manipulating the masses rapture which will be unleashed by qualifying to the World Cup? Are the masses really so stupid? And why would a dictator really care about legitimacy anyway when they can simply shove their wishes down their people’s throats? But the more time passed, and the louder the insults heaped on Algeria by the highest officials in Egypt, the more these hypotheses started to make sense. Algeria did not play into the Mubarak plan, Algeria ruined it for Gamal, Algeria is evil. What now? Plan A failed and there is no plan Z because plan A was believed to be fail-safe. The best course of action was deemed to be that of ‘damage minimization’ it seems, attention must be deflected from the defeat at all cost and by all means. People’s fury must be directed away lest they start blaming the system which resulted or at least contributed to this misery. An enemy is needed, what better enemy than the Nemesis ‘Algeria’? Well, it’s either Algeria or the corrupt Mubarak dynasty, not much of a choice really eh.
Still doubtful? Well, you shouldn’t be because anyone who has been following recent events will not have failed to notice that the Egyptian narrative is almost exactly a carbon-copy of the Algerian narrative which followed the violent events that Algerian supporters experienced in Cairo. For example, the Algerian national team bus was pelted soon after they arrived in Cairo and the Egyptians claim the bus of their team was subjected to the same treatment in Sudan (however, unlike their Algerian counterparts, they have failed to produce any serious proof). In fact, FIFA has started disciplinary proceedings against Egypt following the Cairo incident but no similar actions have been initiated against Algeria or Sudan. Another example, Algerian fans reported that they have been humiliated, abused and beaten up (there was even one officially recorded case involving an Algerian fan who’d been stabbed by an Egyptian supporter) following the match in Cairo. The Egyptians, on the other hand, produced a multitude of hear-say stories and phone calls to TV programmes all relating similar stories of humiliation, stabbings and ‘bloodbaths’ which took place in Sudan at the hands of Algerian fans following the play-off match. All without a shred of evidence of course, and not only that, Sudanese officials and a number of Egyptian journalists who attended the events denied the rumours. However, the Egyptian histrionics continued regardless. They needed to vent-off their rage as they admitted on air a few days later.
But now, the Egyptians have started to realize they have gone beyond the point of no return, and worse, they have reached a cul-de-sac. The masses’ furor is still raging and it shows no sign of appeasement, even after the torrent of abuse that was heaped on the Algerian enemy. Gamal is no more popular than he was before although his elder brother Alaa did register a slight increase in popularity after calling in a sports programme on telly and delivering this gem: ‘If you insult my dignity, I will beat you on the head‘ (which of course refers to everything Algerian). None of the Arab brotherhood nor the international community took notice of the Egyptian self-made tragedy. So Egypt is starting to feel silly; plan Z backfired because Algeria again messed up everything by not giving into the shameless provocations of the Egyptian side. So what now? If I were Mubarak, I would be a bit pissed off to say the least. After all his banging on about ‘Egyptian dignity’, I suppose he could start putting Egyptian trouble-makers in jail (Egypt is still under emergency law rule remember), and then maybe kill a few Algerians or maybe put them on trial. That would be business as usual then. I don’t know really, it’s a toughie that one. He does need to do something, anything that will make him look good. Because he’s looking really daft right now. What is clear is that the repercussions of this stupid political move will possibly take years to mend from the perspectives of the peoples of Egypt and Algeria.