World Cup 2010: Egypt’s contempt for “Africa”

One of the most stark features of the Algeria vs Egypt imbroglio is the undercurrent of contempt that most Egyptians seem to harbour for the rest of Africa. Its a sort of “us” and “them” mentality.
When Alaa Mubarak, who rarely gives public interviews, called all Algerians “mercenaries”, he seemed to be articulating the opinions of millions of Egyptians towards their African brethren.
“There is nothing called Arab nationalism or brotherhood, this is just talk, that doesn’t mean anything in reality…. When Algerians learn how to speak Arabic they can then come and say that they are Arabs.”

This is what sticks in the craw of most Egyptians. That a supposedly “inferior nation”, an “usurper” of pan Arabian nationhood as espoused by Gamel Abdel Nasser has the temerity to beat them in a soccer match. These feelings of injustice are being cleverly exploited by Hosni Mubarak who has been the de facto ruler for many decades in a country with weak democratic credentials to drum up support for his regime once again.
The premium on Arabian purity extends to the Sudanese. A big part of the anticipated Sudanese support for Egypt in the Khartoum clash was based on the fact that there are thousands of refugees in Egypt fleeing the civil wars in that country. What is less known is that these refugees are subjected to intense racial discrimination in that country because of their colour. They cannot seek jobs in a country that is reeling from record unemployment. The refugees in turn look to Egypt as a transit point to their ultimate destination, in a strange twist, Israel.
The Egyptian media dismiss them as “Africans”, making a derogatory distinction between them and the rest of Africa. As this article points out:
” Ask most Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians or any other person of dark skin and they will relate stories of racism: not getting to rent a flat because the landlord thought they were “dirty” and would “destroy the place.”
The 81 year old president has finally found a heir apparent in son, Gamal Mubarak. It is a strange conundrum because the pan- Arabist position furthered by Nasser was catered towards the Western world while the Islamist position was much better articulated and accepted by the Muslim Brotherhood. The disputed soccer match has come at a convenient time to create an artificial hypernationalism to set the stage for Gamal Mubarak’s entry into politics. It was much easier years ago before oil and Israel sidelined Egypt’s pre-eminent position in the Arab world.

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2 comments on “World Cup 2010: Egypt’s contempt for “Africa”
  1. I don’t really agree with the last 2 posts about the game here. It is not about racism nor any other feelings. I am an Arab, from a nighbour country, Saudi Arabia.
    Egypt, is the center of the Arab land, and they are trend setters in some aspects. Everyone travelled to Egypt, learned by Egytpian teachers, enjoyed Egyptian love songs, and movie dramas at certain points of time. It is like the American media role to the west.
    I don’t believe it has racism. It is as far as it can be from Racism. Life there is very simple for foriegners. Yet, Egypt is VERY contraversal country. People love talks, gossips, rumers and conspiracy theories.
    The whole thing about this game has almost nothing to do with soccer. It is pure politics, in my opinion.
    Egyptian streetman, believes and feels that the government does not care about him (which is almost true). Mubarak didn’t do much to the country in the last 3 decades. Yet, he did good that he didn’t engage in any war.
    Egypt has an election, theoritcally. And Gamal Mubarak (son of the old president) starts to come into the picture, but the public does not like him much. There are a lot of rumers and jokes that he abuse his power in business.
    He needed a big PR campaign to polish his image and prepare for the next era. And what is a better choice than the Egypt National Team?
    Egyptians, like most nations, are so passionate about soccer. Egypt got their best team in their history today. They won the last 2 African cups. The last was really in an impressive way.
    Gama travelled to Sudan with the team. They lost. He cannot just be silent. The PR must continue. Losing relations to Algeria is not that critical to Egypt. It is not like losing relations to the US, UK, Gulf Countries or many other nations.
    The whole Egyptian media channels were talking how Egyptians were humilated by Algerians in Egypt, and how great was Gamal Mubarak and his stand was.
    It is all PR, and politics. Yes, you can dig to few stories from history from both nations, but this is far from being a real hatred. Many Egyptians are married to Algerians.
    I know many Sudanese were supporting Egypt before the game. This denies any racism theory.
    Look at this YouTube, you might not understand a word of it, but it is so funny and sad:
    This is one of top the TV shows in Egypt, and he did a big hoax of that game. That night after the game in Sudan, celebrities were calling the show LIVE and shouting for real HELP from the algerians crazy fans. I have to mention many Egyptian celebrities went to the Stadium.
    One video leaks, and showing the Egyptian old (expired) celebrity doing those screams from another studio in Sudan

  2. I appreciate the arguments laid out above, but I think they only illustrate the power and the importance of the World Cup and its place in international affairs. As a nation, and as a nation of people, we as Americans tend to take a relatively naive posture regarding the World Cup and its role geopolitically as well as socially in the world community. While it has undeniable unifying benefits, it is also a great source of tension that helps to rekindle many age-old disputes between and among nations. It is undoubtedly the world’s most important sporting event, but it is without question one of the most political events even when it emerges in the name of sport.

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