I certainly don’t want to minimize the difficulty facing the Algerians and Egyptians as they dance around the crisis that came out of a football match this week. But I predict that it will soon be water under the bridge.
North Africans are accustomed to emotional stances, often irrational ones, which generally magnify when national pride is involved. This latest feud between Algeria and Egypt, which governments have been literally dragged by football fans, reminds me of my youth in Algiers. Feuds between a gang of kids from one neighborhood attacking and stoning another group of kids in another neighborhood were common practice and natural occurrences. Although I personally never took part, as I got accidently hurt once and learned my lesson, these events occurred on the regular basis, and I suspect the practice goes on. This latest event, however, is at the national level and involves a more globalized press, the Internet and social networks. And as in the neighborhoods, this feud will soon die down and the press will have to look for something else to report.
Sadly, there is some collateral damage and may be something to learn. Many fine Egyptian companies operating in Algeria have to take a low profile as they are now facing a very angry young mob. Egypt appears more irrational and its government is succumbing to popular pressure. Algerians in Egypt have been facing enormous troubles with almost no good will from Egyptian police to provide adequate protection. Now the Egyptian Ambassador in Algiers has been recalled for consultation, according to APF. This is beyond irrational.
What is to learn in such a tense environment? The qualifying match between France and Ireland also was not without its own controversy. But does that mean Ireland would have to recall its ambassador in Paris because of a questionable goal? Nonsense. While the fans are running out of control in North Africa, the governments of Algeria and Egypt must stop their rhetoric and force a return to normalcy. There are no reasons why emotions over a game should move into the political arena, even if fans fight each others and the press gets involved with provocative reporting.
Finally, the international football federation (FIFA), a syndicate that is about maximizing profit and benefiting from it all, should be warned of future liability if it does not change its rules. FIFA always knew of the incendiary situation such a face off would lead to. The Algeria-Egypt game was long characterized as a game of high stakes and yet it allowed it to happen in a non neutral venue. This is the equivalent of a criminal act. There is no reason whatsoever why FIFA should not change its rules, if it wants to avoid bloodshed in the future. By Arezki Daoud