Al-Ahram Weekly Online   26 November - 2 December 2009
Issue No. 974
Features
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Ready, steady, defend

Egyptian football fans were attacked by Algerian fans last week after the World Cup play-off in Sudan, showing that Egypt's fans have much to learn from Algerian fighting techniques, writes Dena Rashed

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How else would Egyptian fans defend themselves against attacks by the Algerian supporters in future matches?

The world might not believe that many Egyptian football fans were attacked by Algerian fans in Sudan last week, but Egyptians know what happened after last Wednesday's match. Testimonies, photos and videos of those injured circulated among Egyptians, who ran to the airport to escape the assaults, taking them as much as eight hours to leave Sudan.

After the match ended, Algeria winning 1-0, silence was heard all over the country. A state of shock, sadness, perhaps eventually acceptance, was surely going to follow. It was a standard procedure: everyone knew that if Egypt won, it would be a memorable night for all Egyptians, and if Egypt lost, the match would be analysed and then over-analysed over the weeks to come. Then enthusiasm would build up again for the African Football Cup, to be held in January.

Although Egypt's fans hoped for a win in order to qualify for the World Cup, they did not expect an after-match battle in the streets of Sudan. Spectators watching the after-match sports programmes were glued to their screens as they heard calls from Egyptian fans assaulted by Algerian fans in the streets, some of them snatching Egyptian flags from their hands.

On Nile Sports Channel, renowned sports writer Ibrahim Higazi was hosting the show, when the air became tense as tearful female and infuriated male fans started describing what was happening to them in Sudan. The reports indicated that the Algerian fans had knives and sharp objects and started attacking Egypt's fans in the streets. As for the buses, they were smashed with bricks.

Nine people were reported as being hospitalised. While some Egyptian fans were lucky enough to head back to their hotels immediately, others thought that since Algeria had won they were safe from attack from the weapons-equipped and mob-trained Algerian fans.

Many Egyptians asked the question why, since the Algerians had won, they were going after Egyptian fans. What would have happened had Egypt won the match?

However, whether winners or losers, the Algerians seemed to be after revenge, having believed rumours about attacks on Algerian fans in Egypt, thanks to the imaginative Algerian press, after the 14 November match. The Algerian ambassador only denied the rumours three days after Algerian newspapers had ignited a fire in the hearts of the crowds. A media frenzy took over, and the Egyptian side seemed unconcerned to counter the Algerian claims.

As a result, Algerian fans violently attacked their Egyptian counterparts. Judging from the crowds during the final match, Egyptians present in Sudan's Om Durman Stadium were not even "real" football fans, but rather consisted of a bunch of show-business people and members of the ruling National Democratic Party, in addition to some well-off young fans who had been able to afford the price of the plane tickets.

As for the really tough fans, those who could have fought back against the Algerian attacks, these were not there. Many people in Egypt said that the real fans, those who can only afford the third and lowest-category tickets in football matches, would have been able to cheer for the team, not feel inhibited by the crowds, and at the same time defend themselves against the aggressive attacks of the Algerian mob.

However, that may be, if Egypt and Algeria play against each other at football again sometime soon, precautions have to be taken and lessons learned. What would be the best location for such a match? And which fans should Egypt send against the Algerians, given the latter's organised attacks?

What follows are 101 tips for playing the Algerian team, and their fans.

ï A special stadium should be constructed as soon as possible in the Abu Zabal Correctional Facility called the Abu Zabal International Stadium (AZIS) in honour of the Algerian fans. (Tora Prison was a first option, but after investigation it appears that this already houses high-class criminals, so it does not suit the nature of the fans).

ï Learning from the best football fans (the Algerians of course), Egyptian fans should match the ferociousness of their counterparts, so ex-cons are welcome to cheer, as are current prisoners. If they don't get hurt and they emerge safely, they could receive a pardon.

ï However, requirements should also be met. Egyptian fans who have committed only a misdemeanour won't be allowed to attend the match. Only those with convictions for two felonies are acceptable. How else would we ensure their safety?

ï As for flags, the Algerians understood that they should not use plastic ones like the naïve Egyptians. Instead, they use flags on bamboo sticks with a nail at the tip. So why not copy that as well? No one will be admitted with soft plastic flags.

ï Yes, it is only a game, but it is a game that seemed to be much more fun for the Algerian fans armed with knives and other objects. (It is not advisable to run carrying a sharp object). This creative part can be left to Egypt's fans to come up with.

ï Allowing cute Egyptian females with matching red, white and black outfits and the Egyptian flag drawn on their faces to attend is not going to be acceptable anymore. Women with criminal records, will, however, be welcome, as long as they go suitably armed with slippers and brooms in hand (in case the Algerian fans mistake them for the softies who were in Sudan).

ï If any celebrities wish to attend the match in the AZIS, there will be a bullet and soundproof compartment for their safety.

ï Any game that involves Algerian fans will be played in the AZIS, be it tennis, ping-pong, swimming or volleyball. (Never mind how this will happen: the budget presumably can stretch that far).

ï No young prisoners (under 25 years old) will be allowed to attend matches to avoid traumatising them.

ï A new swat team should be trained at the Police Academy and used only for such events. It can be called "the Anti- Algerian Fans Swat Team".

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