Egypt isn’t keeping its eye on the ball

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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Like many Egyptians, I stopped watching any international or local sports event, especially when those events were accompanied by violent incidents that became a constant feature in Egypt.

Add that to the profound state of frustration that haunted us for months and made Egyptians lack interest in sports. But this time, things have changed. After the Egyptian revolution against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and after retrieving our kidnapped nation, hope found its way back to us and we got back the will to live.

The football match between Egypt and Ghana on Tuesday came at the right time to fulfill our dream to reach the World Cup in Brazil, a dream that took around 24 years to come and will seemingly now be delayed further.

We felt the need to accomplish a quick achievement that would concretize the notion of us getting back to ordinary life. We wanted to achieve an old dream even if we had insufficient tools.

People were saying “we deserve to be happy” and others said “people are tired, the national team really need to cheer us up.” This is why we had high hopes for our national team’s game against Ghana. In fact, the much-circulated question between friends and acquaintances was “where are you going to watch the game?” We lived a moment of fantasy and enthusiasm, and we wanted to relive the taste of being alive.

We lost the game and our dreams have collided but, on the other hand, we won our reality.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Some even went to the extent of paying for Egyptian fans to travel in special airplanes to Ghana. Others started recalling the ambiance of our famous match against the Algerian team in Sudan a few years ago. Ideas were put forward to motivate the fans to encourage the team. This required of course thinking about procedures to protect Egyptians there, but a reasonable voice was questioning “what if we lose the game there in light of the emotional constraints and a betting war linked to 22 pairs of shoes erupts?” This rational voice influenced the way to deal with the match at this level.

However, on the public level, everyone had high hopes to reach this moment of happiness. Whether the hopes had substance or not, was not important. What was actually important is that we were tired and needed to restore happiness in our lives, this is why we waited for the game.

At that time, phones stopped receiving greeting messages for Eid al-Adha, which was more cheerful and different this year. All phone calls stopped and all eyes, hearts and emotions were directed to the game that was going to be broadcasted by Egyptian television in collaboration with Ghana’s television, even though the Qatari channel has warned and threatened the Egyptian channel stating that it is the only channel that can broadcast the game. It obliged its Egyptian commentators to read the warnings every few minutes.

Egyptians mocked those threats as the brothers of the “sister” country ordered that a high-ranked Egyptian official calls another high-ranked official in Qatar asking for his permission to broadcast the game, not knowing that things have changed in Egypt. Nothing can oblige an Egyptian official to give up his right or stance even if it will result in temporary material loss. Therefore, the general attitude was to refuse the Qatari orders even if it resulted in not watching the game. Such stance was certainly to gain popular support even if the game wasn’t to be broadcasted.

What happened next?

The game started and it was clear that the team’s members were in a state of fragmentation and confusion. A friend commented that politics seem to have intervened in the stadium.

I do not want to go back to the 90 minutes that caused us case of unprecedented high blood pressure, neither to the state of temporary frustration that we are going through, but I will only state a few remarks and results that I find important. I will start with the above-mentioned remark; that the political conflict was preset on the field when Mohammad Aboutrika, a player in the national team, scored the only goal in a penalty. His support of the Muslim Brotherhood has been made clear recently. During the match, he refused to shake hands with his nationals and even ignored his teammate who tried to greet him. He seemed angry with a shaggy beard. Some have even asked if he has prayed after the game thanking God that the “rebellion” team was defeated!

Still, there is a positive side to what happened. It is true that the Egyptian team in addition to their coach Bradley wrecked the Egypt’s dream to reach Brazil but there was a positive side in all of that. Achieving a quick victory was enough to create a state of numbness to a considerable part of the population. Some will even feel that the Egyptians wanted to gain back what they missed; which would be in fact an unreal illusion. The reality is that we have missed a lot and we desperately need to compensate that, not only in football but also in all other important fields. Winning, despite its psychological importance, would have triggered a fake felling of euphoric force. Many of whom I talked to after the game thought about it in the same way, and this is a proof that Egyptians have changed and became more realistic.

We lost the game and our dreams have collided but, on the other hand, we won our reality. We have missed out a lot and we need true efforts to achieve our most important dream: creating a new Egypt.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Oct. 19, 2013.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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