Has losing a football match alone managed to shake Egypt’s national ego?


A Nation’s Shaken Ego Seen in a Soccer Loss is the title of an article which was published a couple of days ago in the New York Times. I am not sure whether the writer was incredulous or whether I projected my own incredulity at the Egyptian reaction on the article, but it is clear that foreign observers who are living in Egypt (like journalists who report from Cairo) seem to regard the Egyptian reaction to that fateful football match against Algeria worthy of news-reporting and analysis. I am still skeptical about whether all this really means something more than deep disappointment at losing a football match – after all, an already-miserable person with very little hope will alwas be more likely to exhibit violent emotions (whether at the positive or negative ends of the emotions scale). Football is one of these games which has the ability to drive people, from all classes, mad. So in my view, the Egyptians are behaving like football fans because very little else seems to persuade them to mobilise at such a national scale and complain or rejoice. It has to be mostly about football. This of course does not deny the fact that Egyptians suffer from many problems, but we have to be careful not to confuse corelation with causality. The Guardian dedicated a couple of contrasting commentaries on the issue, one of the view that there is no need to point the finger at deeper ills because “the violence in Cairo was just thuggery cynically fomented by President Mubarak” and the other of the opposite view that there’s “more to Egypt’s riots than football“. Am more inclined to agree with Mayton (the writer of the first article).

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4 thoughts on “Has losing a football match alone managed to shake Egypt’s national ego?

  1. I am a bit confused about the Guardian articles.
    The first one says it’s all to do with tribalism but then mentions several other causes. And the second article says it’s all about football (something I disagree with. It is like when someone suicides after he loses his job, and you say it’s all because of the job, because he wouldn’t have suicided had he not lost his job, simply or rather simplistically). But again he mentions many other causes.

    I think it is complex and pointing at one specific cause cannot be correct.

    • I know what you mean, and that is why I wrote ‘it is mostly about football’. It happens again and again, in many countries, football fans get violent even at club-level tournaments. Throwing politics, socio-economics and religion into the mix won’t help generally and it will simply confuse issues.

      I still maintain that the root of the problem is the nature of football itself. How would you explain otherwise that no other sport results in the same violence on a similar scale, despite the same political, socio-economic and religious problems being in place?

      • I agree football fans get violent almost everywhere and at all club levels, and the nature of football being the most popular game in the world and the most practiced among all the social classes adds to it. I mean who would care if our rugby or hockey teams don’t qualify or beat Egypt?

        But what happened in Egypt is beyond all that; isn’t it?
        Read Amine Ezzaoui’s analysis of the Egyptian intellectuals’ reactions. When you consider this “elite”, you just can’t say it is mostly about football.

  2. OK, you might argue that what happened served to expose the mediocrity of many of current Egyptian intellectuals.

    But so what? A mediocre intellectual will always expose themselves – unlucky for them that it happened at the hands of a footie match (a bit more humiliating for a so-called intellectual).

    All that has happened when you consider the actual facts is that different people from all classes of society (whether Algerian or Egyptian) have jumped on the bandwagon of the mass hysteria that football BY ITS NATURE generates:

    – the politicians did in order to boost their popularity
    – the masses did in order to feel a long lost sense of pride, national unity and well, to have a party!
    – the media to populate their programmes and boost their advertising revenues
    – the intellectuals to errm affirm their place with the masses who are generally alienated by them and also confirm their allegiance to whoever is supporting them politically or financially and also the cause(s) they believe in

    So all in all, football is the real cause of the explosion – anything else was merely exposed by the impact of the explosion which would not have happened in the first place if it was not a football match.

    I guess that what am driving at is that anything which has the same ability as football to mobilise the masses will attract various ‘elites’ like you call them. It is about power and politics like almost everything is and has always been.

    It is not without reason that football has been compared to religion (another favourite of the masses). Other post-modern contendents are environmentalism (much lesser scale) and anti-terrorism.

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