Egyptians divided over watching World Cup on Israeli channel
Brazil and Croatia
Fireworks are displayed over Lebanese soccer fans who have gathered to watch the first soccer match of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia (Photo: Reuters)
Eslam Omar
Saturday 28 Jun 2014
5804 Views
Israel's broadcast of the World Cup is free - unlike Qatar's pricey beIN Sports channel - which creates a sticky situation for Egyptian football fans

Most Egyptian football viewers may be hostile to Israel, despite a decades-old peace treaty between the two countries, but they don't mind watching the World Cup on an Israeli channel, given that many can hardly afford to pay the hefty subscription fee to private satellite broadcasters.

beIN Sports, owned by Qatari network Al Jazeera, is exclusively broadcasting the World Cup in Africa and the Middle East. But at nearly LE1,000 for a football subscription package, many are seeking alternative routes to watch the world's most prestigious sporting event for free.

'Against normalising'

The Egyptian Sports Writers Association, under the leadership of newly-elected journalist Mohamed Shabana, repotedly released a statement on Wednesday rejecting what it describes as an "Al Jazeera conspiracy to force Arab nations to watch Zionist channels."

The association argues that the Qatari channels, who have exclusive broadcast rights of the World Cup in the region, have sued Arabic channels many times in the past for breaking broadcast rules, but they ignore Israeli channels that do so in order to force Arabs to normalise with Israel.

"We demand all Arabs not to watch Zionist channels, even at the price of not watching the World Cup," the association insisted in its statement.

Speaking with Ahram Online, football expert Khaled Bayoumi agreed that watching Israeli channels is tantamount to "normalising" relations, which he says he's "totally against".

There are other free channels for Egyptians to watch the matches on, he said, like the European ones Astra and Hotbird.

"But I say to Egyptian viewers: if you have no option but to watch the Israeli channels, then to hell with the whole World Cup," said Bayoumi, a regular guest on Egyptian sports programmes.

Al Jazeera and Egypt

Egyptian authorities have shown antagonism towards Al Jazeera, the channel which is known to support the Muslim Brotherhood – designated a terrorist organisation in December.

Al Jazeera's offices were raided shortly after the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi and the deadly dispersal of a pro-Morsi sit-in last August.

Three of the channel's employees were handed seven to 10 year jail sentences by an Egyptian court this week for spreading "false news", a ruling that many countries and rights groups viewed as a crackdown against anti-regime media.

Despite all the debates, Al Jazeera Sports network beIN gained a big number of subscriptions – and are still gaining subscribers – especially for the World Cup.

'No choice'

One journalist that Ahram Online spoke with, who describes herself as anti-Zionist, said that she was at first against the "whole idea of watching Israeli channels." But then she thought that she'd "be benefiting from them", with the station getting nothing in return.

"I enjoyed the feeling that I was ripping them off," she said.

For Ibrahim El-Masry, a former footballer from Port Said, the situation reeks of a conspiracy.

"People are poor and have no choice," he said. "Why don't the authorities broadcast the World Cup on our local channels?"

"Israel is ... targeting poor and badly-educated people," said the former Masry star, who played on the Egyptian national team in the 1990s. He described Israel's World Cup broadcasting efforts as "obvious propaganda" and "just the beginning" of future programmes to "hook Arab viewers".

Israel welcomes viewers

Meanwhile, Israel doesn't seem too concerned with the debate.

"I hear that many football fans in neighbouring countries are watching the World Cup live on Israeli channels. We welcome you," Ofir Gendelman, Arab media spokesman for Israel's prime minister, said via Facebook and Twitter last Saturday.

On Wednesday, Gendelman published a photo with Hebrew football expressions, written in Arabic letters and translated into Arabic, adding that he hoped they proved "useful" for Arab fans of the World Cup.

Comments for Gendelman

But most fans didn't seem too happy with the gesture. Comments were mostly tongue-in-cheek:

"Uncle Ofir, tell them to change the logo and put flags of the teams beside their names [written in Hebrew] because we don't understand it. And get me a shisha and a cup of sahleb!"

"We are taking what we want from you but after the World Cup, Goodbye Amos Satellite."

"Get us an Arabic commentator and I will pray for you that you die soon!"

"And how do you translate: a prayer in Al-Quds?"

Additional reporting by Osman El-Sharnoubi 

 



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Efraim
01-07-2014 05:51pm
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Egyptians reserving the "right" to Hate
You will pray that Israeli's die soon? Well I pray that you will wake up to your own best interest, and enjoy the free soccer games on the non-ripoff Israeli channel.
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7



Mark
30-06-2014 10:45pm
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Stupid
some Egyptians are still so primitive:" "Al Jazeera conspiracy to force Arab nations to watch Zionist channels." Just watch football, forget politics for a moment, the hate is driving them mad, I feel sorry for them.
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6



peter claudemir
29-06-2014 12:21pm
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LOL
If thats the biggest problems you guys have, we should all be jealous of eqypt! enjoy the world cup and relax, cheers, peter claudemir
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5



Abed Aziz
29-06-2014 11:38am
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Spare me your hypocrisy
Egypt cares about the Palestinians? Ha Ha. Let's not forget that Egypt occupied Gaza which was supposed to be part of Palestine from 1948-67, and held the people there under military rule. And now Gaza gets much more aid from Israel than from Egypt. Spare me you hypocrisy.
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Thompson Dozie
29-06-2014 08:55pm
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Thanks
Just wana thank you for your comment,pls if you are jewish reply me back pls
4



A
29-06-2014 09:06am
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Wow, talk about a lack of basic decency
Wow, aside from the insane paranoia, I'm taken aback by the basic lack of decency expressed by Egyptians in this article. It is a sign of a sick society.
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3



Alvin J Furrer
28-06-2014 09:09pm
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Better to boycot Al Jazeeraa !!
Last year I subscribed to Al Jazeera for the Premier League. The service was no way as good as Abu Dhabi Sports who had the concession before them, and I complained many times to no avail. So I am doing my own boycot this coming year. Which is fine with me because I was also very incensed with their totally biased news reporting this past year !! I now have been watching the matches free of charge on the Internet - I see all the action, save money and have satisfaction in not supporting Al Jazeera !!
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2



Matoaka
28-06-2014 05:54am
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Childish Nonsense!
How absurd can people be? Not wanting to watch the World Cup just because of who owns the station? Who cares?!! That is ridiculous to even spend any time thinking about it or worrying over such a matter! Over & Over I hear this nonsense Jews & Muslims not getting along I'm so sick of the whole thing! Most of you don't even know why you don't like each other. You just do what your family or friend does following their lead. You have no mind to think for yourself! How sad for you. I have spent years researching history, religion, culture and heritage of us, US being the human race Christians, Jews Muslims we are all from the same place, we worship the same God we are brothers and sisters people so stop acting so stupid with such pettiness!!!
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1



Lol
28-06-2014 12:40am
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16+
Sad
We Egyptians are so stupid
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