How the World Cup and Algeria have inspired a generation
Not Algeria play beautiful football, but it managed to do what the Arab Spring has failed thus far in doing: unite us all.
Watching the World Cup has become an excellent pastime, especially during the long warm days of Ramadan. As great as passing the time is, football has proven to have an even stronger message and power to truly bring people together.
Algerians restore Arab pride
The reputation of Arabs has been shaken since the beginning of the Arab Spring. To outsiders, it may seem like we are lost souls with one sole purpose in life: to protest. Algeria has restored Arab pride through this major sporting event and indeed given many a new heightened sense of identity.
Their artistic and strategic playing during their matches, especially during the match against Germany is proof that even in a country that has experienced protests and has relatively poor investment in sports (compared to their German opponents), strong willpower is all that is needed to play a beautiful game.
But it’s not just what the Algerian team has done for Algeria, rather what the team has done for the entire region. In a truly rare glimpse of the beauty of the Arab world, social media erupted with overwhelming support for the team from Arabs across the Middle East. Not just Algerians, but people from the Levant, from the GCC, Egypt and North Africa were truly rooting for a team that they considered to be representing them.
Encouraging young people into sports
The Middle East is home to alarmingly high obesity rates, especially in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where rates exceed 30%. What the World Cup can do for the future generation is possibly life saving. Encouraging young people to play sports, train, and exercise is priceless. There is no greater gift than the gift of life, and although watching the World Cup in the Arab world usually means crowding around a table with sweet tea, smoking, and eating sweets, there is no doubt that the strategies learned throughout watching the matches can mean that these young people want to go out and play as soon a the match is over.
Not Algeria play beautiful football, but it managed to do what the Arab Spring has failed thus far in doing: unite us allYara al-Wazir
The key is seizing this opportunity and making the most out of it. GCC countries, where obesity rates are some of the highest in the region, are perhaps better equipped for this than the rest of the region. With indoor football pitches being built to ease the heat, and solid government funding to encourage young people to play sports more often (especially in Qatar). Young people have better access to the infrastructure required to better their own lives. This is not to say that others across the region do not - after all, all that is needed to play the game is a ball, a team, and two markings to symbolise a goal post.
One of the greatest things about football is that it truly has the power to bring people together. If the current generation of young people start now, they will learn one of the most valuable lessons in life: that success comes as part of a collective movement with a mutual goal, regardless of any personal differences. Indeed, they can learn this by watching the matches, or by seeing the beauty that swept the streets of the region every time the Algerian team played a match.
The overwhelming support for the Algerian team showcased what could one day become a reality in the Middle East: a loving an caring community that is not torn by sectarianism, classism, or violence. Rather a region that stands together for the sole purpose of united representation on a world stage.
Algeria, on behalf of my generation, I thank you for what you have done. Not only did your team play beautiful football, but it managed to do what the Arab Spring has failed thus far in doing: unite us all.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
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