Thursday, February 03, 2011

Football Fans In Front Line Of Egypt Protests

Difficult at the moment not to be transfixed by events in Egypt as a wave of pro-democracy protests undermine President Mubarak.

A funny place to find a football connection. Not necessarily, as Dave Zirin - always worth a read - shows in his column:

Over the decades that have marked the tenure of Egypt's "President for Life" Hosni Mubarak, there has been one consistent nexus for anger, organization, and practical experience in the ancient art of street fighting: the country's soccer clubs. Over the past week, the most organized, militant fan clubs, also known as the "ultras," have put those years of experience to ample use.

Last Thursday, the Egyptian Soccer Federation announced that they would be suspending all league games throughout the country in an effort to keep the soccer clubs from congregating. Clearly this was a case of too little, too late. Even without games, the football fan associations have been front and center organizing everything from the neighborhood committees that have been providing security for residents, to direct confrontation with the state police. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Alaa Abd El Fattah, a prominent Egyptian blogger said, "The ultras -- have played a more significant role than any political group on the ground at this moment." Alaa then joked, "Maybe we should get the ultras to rule the country."

You can see the whole article here, it's a fascinating read.

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1 comment:

  1. How decisive the role of the ultras, fanatical soccer fans of Cairo’s two main rivalling football clubs, is within the anti-Mubarak opposition coalition will become evident in the coming hours.

    The ultras are one of the few, if not the only group among Mubarak's opponents, that not only have an organization but are battle-hardened street fighters.

    Mubarak, steeled by 30 years in power and ruthless, could win battle if the opposition and the ultras don't have the wherewithal for what is likely to be an increasingly brutal fight. So far they appear to have stood their ground. But Mubarak has nothing more to lose. He's become a domestic and international pariah whether he stays in power or resigns.