Zidan's fatherhood triggers cultural clash in Egypt

Eslam Omar, Sunday 19 Dec 2010

As Egyptian star football player Zidan proudly announced the birth of his son, Adam, heated controversy erupted in the Egyptian media and among the public

Mohamed Zidan

An announcement released on Saturday morning, stating that Egyptian player Mohamed Zidan became a father, has sparked controversy in the Egyptian press and among the public.

The statement, posted on Borussia Dortmund’s website, revealed that Zidan has fathered a baby boy, Adam, with Danish girlfriend Stina on Friday. The club post also included congratulations from teammates, who wished the new born a prosperous future.

The news came as a shock to Zidan's Egyptian fans, and especially to those who share his religion, Islam, which prohibits sexual relations outside of marriage and in accordance with which his baby would be deemed illegitimate.

Most Egyptian newspapers announced the story timidly. They avoided mentioning the relationship between the couple, while editors opted for the word “partner” instead of “girlfriend” when describing the mother.

An ongoing debate raged through the blogosphere and news websites, with a few shy “congratulations” going up against the wave of harsh criticism, which called the event “shameful.” Critics said the player was “dropping his own culture and religion,” with some even demanding that he should be “thrown out of the National team.”

Egyptian football supporters have not forgiven Zidan what they consider an earlier denial of his national and cultural roots, when the player turned down the Pharaohs in 2006 in an attempt to get a Danish passport and a spot on the Scandinavian country's 2006 World Cup squad.

Meanwhile, as raucus speculation continued, questions were raised about his previous engagement to actress May Ezzedine, which ended with the couple's separation in 2009.

The media-shy footballer, who left Egypt more than a decade ago, at the age of 19, to join Danish side AB Copenhague, stepped out to clear the situation.

“Stina is my wife. I have been married to her according to Islamic teachings since 2006. I just kept it a secret and didn’t authenticate it in Germany due to their strict divorce laws, especially that we (Stina and I) had our differences before,” Zidan was quoted as saying on Egyptian sports website Filgoal.com.

According to the 29-year-old striker, German law states that the wife gets half of her husband's wealth in the event of divorce.

“I have always stuck to my religion (Islam) and I was never involved in an illegitimate affair as has been reported,” The German-based player added.

The 2008 and 2010 African Cup of Nations winner also cleared up issues concerning the timeline of his relations.

“I got engaged to May after Stina and I split. But we got back together again 16 months ago," he said, adding, “now things have changed, she became the mother of my son and we are pretty sure of what we are going to do in the future. We are going to make our marriage public very soon,” he concluded.

Adam’s parents are planning to have a wedding ceremony to authenticate their marriage in Egypt and Germany once things settle between them.

Zidan's statement may have eased the fury just a bit, but speculation seems bound to go on, especially as the credibility of the star footballer, who has a reputation of being a ‘player,’ has long been in question.

Short link: