Sunday, December 13, 2009

One, two, three, viva l’Algérie!

They look “too much like Arabs” in France, but Algerians are nonetheless often considered to be too close to the Frenchies by many Arabs "surprised" by the way they live a complex identity in which colonial history and globalization merge to lead to a slogan like “One, two, three, viva l’Algérie!”

As everybody with some interest in soccer and/or politics in the arab world knows: Algeria has defeated Egypt and will be the only Arab country to participate in the next world cup in South Africa. A long-waited revenge for the Algerians who have being waiting for their turn to come in that competition for 20 years, precisely since Egypt eliminated them from the final competition 20 years ago.

In the two countries, and also in Sudan where the last match took place, the real confrontation did not occurred on the ground only but, first, in the media where experts from the two countries added fuel to the flames, then in the streets where crowds of galvanised supporters of the two national teams expressed violently their feelings against their supposed “arab brothers.”

Such clashes raise many questions. First about the freedom given to media to say and write whatever they wanted on that matter, something which is not so usual in both countries and which suggests that the authorities saw some interest in not interfering in a polemic announced well in advance by a round of shared accusations and insults among Internet users of the two countries.

A “game” in which Egypt was due to score better than Algeria, the latter not having notorious panarab TV’s sportscasters like ‘Amr Adib who performed extremely well as a fanatical and almost racist supporter of his national team. For instance, during an on-air program, he has been fool enough to call for retaliations against the Algerians living in Egypt… But the truth is that the Algerian press has not managed in a much clever and professional way.

Both Algerian and Egyptian leaders did not travel to Sudan in order to assist to the last match between the two teams, but they had sent their closest counsellors. No less than the two President’s sons on the Egyptian side, with a bunch of pop stars and movie actors. A move which has not been very successful as the disappointed Egyptian supporters turned their anger against their official representatives.

The whole story is too long and complicated to be summarized in a few lines To say nothing about a fair amount of casualties and various violent demonstrations in both countries, it is worth to mention that the two countries are engaged in a diplomatic crisis as severe as the ones Egypt has known from time to time with Israel since Camp David agreements.

Of course, countless comments in the Arab press about the “battle of Khartoum,” denouncing the politicization of these football matchs or the “ballification” of the politics (تكوير السياسة) as a way to prevent that all the frustrations of the Arab youth to get out of hand.

As usual, the link to the post previously published in French.

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