From sit-ins to a kick-off, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohammad Mursi took part in a football match on Sunday.
Protesters from Rabaa al-Adawiya played against protesters from Ennahda. The teams were named after squares in and around Cairo where they have camped out for over a month, staged the friendly on the same night that security and government sources said police are expected to start taking action against them.
The match took place in Ennahda square, where they are camping in Giza, south of Cairo
The Rabaa al-Adawiya team won 5-2 against Ennahda. Pro-Mursi crowds were seen cheering, drumming and chanting on the sidelines of the match, as seen in a video.
Football has long been a passion in Egypt but since the revolt of 2011, politics has taken a more center stage.
Former Egyptian footballer Gamal Abdelhamid, who played for the country’s national team during the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals, described Sunday’s game as “irritating.”
“The game will not make people side with the Brotherhood, nor see their ‘peaceful’ side. Instead, it will irritate many,” Abdelhamid told Al Arabiya English.
Abdelhamid described himself as a neither a supporter nor an opponent on the July 3 military-backed outer of Mursi.
“The current political stalemate in the country has made Egyptian across the country worried about the future. This is not the suitable time for such a football match.”
“By playing the match, and singing and dancing, the Brotherhood and Mursi supporters will not be taken seriously.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian football star Helmy Tolan, who is currently coaching Premier League team Zamalek, said the pro-Mursi protesters are “free to protest how they want” but that they are playing “in stoppage time.”
“Time is nearly up for them. Egypt has returned to how it was [before Mursi’s rule] and they are bound to end their protests sooner or later.”
But is there really an issue with football fitting into the protests?
“You have children and whole families out on those squares. It’s a mixture of politics, entertainment and mobilization,” says James Dorsey, a columnist and the author of the widely acclaimed and quoted blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
“I don’t see what the issue is of football fitting into that. On top of that you have a fair number of militant, or hardcore, soccer fans on those squares.
“There’s no question about the fact that Egypt is extremely divided and is in crisis. But the notion that life should stop because you’re in crisis is absurd,” Dorsey added.