Anybody who has followed the aftermath of the world-cup qualifying play-off in Sudan between Egypt and Algeria cannot help but be astounded [by what has happened]. Thank God that Egypt and Algeria do not share a border otherwise what happened may have had dire consequences, because what is happening today suggests that things will only get worse.
It is true that some of us said, and continue to say, that wars have been fought between countries because of football, but we forget that football has also been used for diplomacy, and even wrestling has been used for political rapprochement between nations that have shared a long-running feud.
How could a football match result in this level of regression and division, and alarm as to such an extent?
Some people in the Arab world say we have forgotten Palestine, and our tragedies and issues for the sake of a football match, but this is over-simplifying the issue. Football is something that excites and thrills us – although of course it has other objectives as well – and without a doubt football deserves to be observed and followed, but things should not heat up to boiling point [as a result of it] with attacks and riots taking place, ambassadors being recalled, and all of this tension. What was also remarkable was the number of armed Sudanese security personnel in the stadium, for it was as if they were stationed on the front-lines, rather than in a football stadium.
At the same time that the Arab world was stunned [by the aftermath of the game], and the media was busy showing the Arabs unrest caused by a game of football, there was another football match taking place between France and Ireland. In this game, France qualified for the World Cup due to an incorrectly awarded goal after a French player used his hand to control the ball in the build-up to the goal that resulted in the French qualification. This was something not just seen by the cameras, but the French footballer himself, Thierry Henry, admitted that he had used his hand; so what happened [following this]?
Nothing like what is happening today following the Egypt versus Algeria game; even after FIFA announced that it would not be replaying the [France versus Ireland] match.
Therefore the issue is more complicated than this, and most certainly has less to do with football, for the violence and aggression that we see today has multiple causes including an inflammatory media in both countries that has no concept of responsibility or professionalism, not to mention the sporting officials in both countries who know nothing about fair-play, and believe that winning or losing is the most important thing in football.
There is another important issue, which is that some people in our Arab world want to reduce all their daily problems, whether they are big or small, core or marginal, to winning or losing a football match. Those that win believe that winning one match, or even a tournament, has solved their problems, while those who lose – regardless of their social class – believe that this is the end of the world. They believe that it [football] represents the moment of reckoning, and this is both unfortunate and annoying.
In [the aftermath of] the Egypt versus Algeria game the matter did not end with the two countries, for the Sudanese Council of Ministers, headed by the Sudanese President himself, met to praise the planning and organization of the game…forgive us for being a bit unsympathetic, but what about the plan to redress the Sudanese division?
Therefore we say look at where this issue has reached.