Sport makes it to the Egyptian revolutionary agenda

Eslam Omar, Monday 13 Jun 2011

Egypt sporting authorities are in the gallows, facing protests against their Mubarak era appointments and fears of further fan chaos and hooliganism

Samir Zaher
Zaher announced last month that he will quit soon

The Egyptian Revolutionary Alliance announced Monday that they will organise a demonstration against corruption in the country’s sports culture soon.

Many of the coalitions that came to light after the 18-day uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak have agreed to hold a meeting with the Egyptian Revolutionary Alliance to discuss the “revolutionary demands within the sport.”

They are planning to make a call for a million man demonstration in Tahrir Square to protest against the board of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and all other corrupt sports associations.

“We are so upset that the revolution hasn’t reached the sports field yet despite its obvious collapsing,” says general coordinator of the league, Amer El-Wakil.

The EFA board, under the presidency of Samir Zaher, is under fire as they are accused by the revolutionaries of representing the old regime’s corruption and hypocrisy.

The board lost a lot of credit after the Egyptian national team failed to defend their three-successive African Cup of Nations (ACN) titles after the Pharaohs went crashing out in the qualification round of the 2012 ACN. The results forced glory-maker Hassan Shehata, the team’s manager, to be ousted in a bitter ending. After the goalless draw against South Africa in the qualifiers, the public almost began to sympathise with the tactician who had pleased Egyptian supporters for six years, but disappointment turned to doubt as people again spoke of his and his squad’s support for Mubarak before and after the January 25 Revolution.

“Our demand for a cleansing of the sport world is no less important than any other political or social demands seeing as we support its budget with our money; we pay in taxes,” El-Wakil confirmed.

Rage has reached the club level too as there are tens of local clubs withdrawing their confidence of the EFA board and requesting chairman Zaher and his assistants to leave their posts.

The Egyptian Premier League’s big clubs joined the protest as Ismaily have threatened this weekend to withdraw from domestic competition, stating that they objected to what they called "biased refereeing."

The coastal club claimed that referee Fahim Omar favoured El-Geish during the 1-0 defeat, asserting that they asked for foreign match officials.

The popular Cairo-based club, Zamalek, who lead the league table with arch-rivals and title holders Ahly, level at 49 points, accused the EFA board of “oppression” last month, describing their decisions as “a failure to satisfyingly manage” the association.

The supporters participated as well. Tens of Zamalek's hardcore Ultras White Knights (UWK) members supported the White Castle statement and protested outside the EFA building last Monday demanding the current Mubarak-appointed board to stand down.

“Go… Zaher” read a sign raised by a UWK member in front of the EFA building.

It is under such flammable circumstances that Zamalek and Ahly are expected to face off for the champion’s title later this month with fears of hooliganism rife – easily triggered between the rivals supporters or even between both of them and police officers. The two sides are involved in a cat and mouse chase as each side follows their fans abusing chants against local police oppression.

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