On Thursday night, out in Downtown Cairo for a drink, I was startled to see a well-known alley blocked by riot police at both ends. It turned out they were there to protect the Air Algeria offices from Egyptian soccer fans. Later that night, protesters outside the Algerian Embassy in Zamalek clashed with police. The soccer-inspired nastiness on both sides continues, surprisingly long.
So after all the ridiculous posturing and dispiriting violence of the last week, it's a pleasure to read this editorial by Al Shurouq newspaper editor Hany Shukrallah.
"Don't you think there's something exaggerated in this discourse about dreams, hopes, historical moments and historical victories; in the scenes of tears, hugs, hurrahs, marches of millions [...] Isn't there something shameful in comparing a soccer game, however important it may be in the soccer world, to the construction of the pyramids and the High Dam and the miracle of the 1973 crossing [of the Suez Canal]? Don't you think, dear reader [...] that there's a sort of cheapening of our history, of its true heroes and accomplishments and sacrifices [...], in which more than 11 Egyptians participated?"
After deploring the complicity of the media in inciting hatred of the other team and country ("Overnight, Algeria has transformed into Egypt's number one enemy, and the Algerian people have turned into the prime target of Egyptians' hatred and contempt"), Shukrallah argues that it's the deterioration of social and political life in the Arab world that has led people to "search for easy contests, areas in which to let loose our stored up anger and frustration and feelings of humiliation, as long as this costs us no effort, and exposes us to no punishment [...]."
He concludes: "The wonder of soccer nationalism is that it doesn't require citizens--just 'supporters.'"