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Irrational Behavior

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image Algerian Football Fan

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

Comments (4 posted):

Motazz Soliman on 20 November, 2009 08:36:35
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While certainly it is regrettable and condemnable that Algerian players faced an attack in Cairo, it is likewise for the attacks faced by Egyptian spectators from Algerian mobs (carrying weapons like knives) as they were coming out of the stadium in Sudan--an event that reportedly took place on a scale greater than what the deplorable incident in Cairo a few days earlier. It is also ridiculous (given that Algeria ultimately qualified for the World Cup).

Furthermore, while the diplomatic spat will certainly lead to a progressive low in Egyptian-Algerian relations, given the circumstances--and mutual animosities-- recalling Egyptian ambassadors may actually be among the best option to take at this point. It may actually allow a cooling down of tensions at least on the official levels, and give both official sides time to regroup and reassess the situation. I agree that undoubtedly this will have to be supplemented with responsibility in the press/media circles. There also has to be an alignment between what is the "right" thing to do and what can be done
"realistically." How to contain the escalation of tensions and actions with measured steps and preserving the dignity and integrity of the sides is a crucial and uneasy step toward normalcy. Perhaps some distance (a cooling of relations) will help towards this endeavor.

These factors, I believe, are especially vital in the broader context of the history of relations between the two countries, its governments, and its peoples. Mr. Daoud, this is the latest in tensions between the nations since the first incidents of brawl occurred 20 years ago when a frustrated Algerian team got embroiled in a conflict with the Egyptian team, resulting in Egyptian team's doctor being blinded by bottle hurled at him from an Algerian player. Sadly and irrationally, the drum-beats of "war" have been beating since.

While I do agree with the general statement that "there are no reasons why emotions over a game should move into the political arena,"--in other words, that soccer or any other sport should not be politicized--I think it would also be hard to affirm this, and finally put a resolve to these tensions, while failing to look at the broader context of the history of relations. It is also sad because the history of Egyptian-Algerian relations were much better than this before the tensions began two decades ago. Hopefully taking all of these broader angles into consideration will facilitate more deeper contemplation and analysis, and help to develop better (more comprehensive) solutions.

As a complex international organization with its own leanings, FIFA will also have some part in this mess, but suggesting that it put an end to matches in "non-neutral venues" is not enough, and such a suggestion takes a more narrow focus than may be advisable. Trouble also occurred in a supposedly "neutral" venue (Sudan), as mentioned above.
Arezki Daoud on 21 November, 2009 11:58:40
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Thank you, Mr. Soliman. I agree that anyone who organizes or commits attacks is on the wrong side, regardless of their nationality. Algerians, Egyptians, and there is plenty of Hooligans out there we can name. The question is can this be a pretext for leadership to lose it or are there political points to score? The whole thing may benefit someone... who? I cannot figure that out. I can tell you though, from an Algerian perspective, this victory has been an unusual show of solidarity, consensus, and unity. Despite the drama of it all, the Egyptians did Algerians an enormous favor of uniting them, in ways we have not seen in decades.

As I started the opinion piece, I admitted that this is no trivial story, though as sad and preventable as it could have been. However, I don't believe that the governments of the two countries will sink so low, for so long in following the path chosen by the supporters. They may do it temporarily given the emotions of their respective public, but I cannot see this last too long. There are serious strategic interests that involve billions of dollars, jobs and strong ties that have always existed between the two countries, and the occasional "brotherly" feuds should not be defining moments. May be wishful thinking, but hopefully tensions will cool soon.

Thank you again for the note.

Arezki
baali on 05 December, 2009 02:22:52
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thanks more my brother
sarah on 19 September, 2012 01:16:54
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These factors, I believe, are especially vital in the broader context of the history of relations between the two countries, its governments, and its peoples. Mr. Daoud, this is the latest in tensions between the nations since the first incidents of brawl occurred 20 years ago when a frustrated Algerian team got embroiled in a conflict with the Egyptian team, resulting in Egyptian team's doctor being blinded by bottle hurled at him from an Algerian player. Sadly and irrationally, the drum-beats of "war" have been beating since.

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