Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Arab disunity

In the FIFA presidential elections Arabs split the vote between Prince Ali and Sheikh Salman, allowing the Swiss Gianni Infantino to emerge victorious. Ahmed Hamdi asked people what happened to Arab unity

Salman Al Khalifa
Salman Al Khalifa
Al-Ahram Weekly

Since the 1960s and the short-lived United Arab Republic, thethree-year political union between Egypt and Syria, Arabs have not united behind any one goal. The latest of these failed attempts was at the FIFA presidential elections.

Friday’s vote in Zurich was never close. Although two Arab candidates were running, Prince Ali of Jordan and Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain, they lost to Swiss candidate Gianni Infantino.

The first round ended with Infantino leading with 88 votes, 85 for Salman and 27 for Ali. Had both Arab candidates agreed that only one of them would face the Swiss, one would have theoretically received 112 votes, more than the 104 votes required from the 207 to declare the winner.

"It’s all nonsense. There is no such thing called Arab unity. Everyone runs behind their own interests. It’s a lie that we keep talking about over and over and it never happened and will never happen," said Ahmed Farouq, a 21-year-old Syrian student in Cairo. His friend Ahmed Ali, an Egyptian of the same age, agreed. "Arabs were never successful in anything so it is nothing new."

It seemed the term "Arab unity" caused controversy whenever it was heard, as instant reactions varied between laughter and anger as some asked for a "more serious question".

After two minutes of laughter and a few jokes, Tarek Asaad, 26, told Al-Ahram Weekly, "we Arabs live to disagree and to fight each other and not unite. We just talk about unity but the reality speaks for itself; we will never be united. Look at the war going on in Syria and you will understand that what happened in the FIFA elections is totally normal. Everyone fights their own battle."

Bushra Adel, 22, gave her opinion: "I know both Arabs lost but even if any of them had won what would have changed? Nothing. It is not like they would have helped Arabs in anything. Maybe their countries but other Arab countries, I doubt it."

Although Arabs lost the position to Infantino, they are still not so far from the presidential chair. Infantino is fluent in Arabic thanks to his Lebanese wife Lina Al-Ashqar who worked as a secretary for the Lebanese Football Association where they met and fell in love.

The former UEFA general secretary married Al-Ashqar in 2001 and have four children. She accompanied him throughout his campaign as he ran for president of FIFA.

"It is like we won but even better," said 28-year-old Gihan Mohamed. "We have a man who is Swiss with the European mentality who wants to restore FIFA's image, and his wife is Lebanese with our Arab mentality and he loves her so much, he can listen to her and

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