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Algeria-Egypt: Online Feud Over Football Match

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Citizen Media, Sport

Tension is building between Egyptian and Algerian football fans ahead of a decisive match due to take place in Cairo on November 14. The encounter will determine which of both teams will qualify to next year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Egypt needs at least a two-goal win to force a playoff on a neutral ground while Algeria, which has failed to qualify to the World Cup since 1986, will  battle to keep its current leading position in the qualifiers group [1]. Ahead of the Saturday showdown, rival fans have been gearing up offline, as well as in heated online exchanges, escalating into a bitter “cyber-war” of intimidation.

Algerian blogger Adel [2] [Fr], sums up the chain of events that led to the row. He writes:

Ce n’est pas sur le carré vert que le match a commencé à se jouer mais sur la toile. En attendant l’entrée des 22 joueurs sur la pelouse du fameux Cairo Stadium, la rencontre a débuté de manière assez peu banale entre les «Facebookeurs» (membres du réseau Facebook) algériens et égyptiens. Tout a commencé par de simples discussions dans les forums avant que cela ne prenne de l’ampleur. Voulant montrer leur savoir-faire dans la retouche d’image, les Egyptiens ont été les premiers à ouvrir les hostilités en publiant des photos «anti-algérien».

Les Egyptiens voulaient expliquer à travers un tel acte que leurs joueurs sont «très forts» et qu’ils sont en mesure d’écraser l’équipe nationale algérienne. Cela donna le top à une guerre d’un genre particulier. La guerre des images et des parodies.

It seems that the match already started online, away from the football pitch. Well before the 22 players entered the famous Cairo Stadium, a bitter showdown began between Algerian and Egyptian Facebookers. It all started with friendly discussions in forums, before things got out of proportion. Wanting to show their expertise in image editing, the Egyptians were the first to open hostilities by publishing “anti-Algerian” photographs.The Egyptians wanted to show that their players were the “strongest” and that they are able to crush the Algerian national team. This gave the go-ahead to a war of a peculiar kind. A war of images and parody.

Videos, dubbing scenes taken from famous Hollywood blockbusters, flooded YouTube, placing the face-off at a Homeric level.

In the following video [Ar], posted by hakemvoip [3] [Fr], Mel Gibson is Rabah Wallace (Braveheart), an Algerian war leader who tries to galvanize his troops ahead of the much expected confrontation:

In this other video, Egyptian ulyesis [4] welcomes Algerian fans to what he calls “hell” in Cairo:

Blogger GEMYHOoOD [5] [Ar] posts pictures of thousands of Egyptian fans who queued up in different parts of Cairo, hoping to get tickets for the match. He publishes [5] pictures of the gatherings:

Egyptian Fans
Egyptian Fans [5]

GEMYHOoOD [5] also posts some eyewitness accounts:

انا خدت اجازة اليوم ونزلت من الصبح لنادي الصيد الساعة 8 الصبح وللاسف لقيت موت ناس وزحمة وطابور فيه حوالي 3000 واحد ودفع وشتيمة والناس كل شوية بتزيد ومش عارف اقف من الزق والعرق بجد مهزلة

I took the day off to come to the club at 8 AM [to get tickets]. Sadly I found a huge crowd and a large queue of about 3000, with people pushing and swearing. I couldn't move. I was stuck. I thought, this is a disgrace.

The official bus of the Algerian football team, which arrived in Cairo on November 12, was allegedly assaulted by local fans, as the following video, posted on YouTube by Vidéos Mouloudia Club d'Oran [6], seems to be showing:

The world football governing body FIFA [7], felt it necessary to issue a warning to the football associations of Algeria and Egypt, reminding both that “the preliminary competition for the 2010 World Cup should end as it began, in the spirit of fair play with the necessary cooperation of all the parties.”

One People, One Language One Goal [8]

A website, Algerie Egypte Match [9] [Ar, Fr], dedicated to the event and monitoring all kind of news related to the match, was created by Algerian fans.

Within this climate of bitter rivalry, some people created a group [10] on the social networking website Facebook, pleading for more tempered feelings. Laama Bouchema posts a message on the group's Wall saying:

[A]s much as i am angry for what happend to the algerian team, i do not judge a whole nation for what some idiots did! it is stupid what angry fans are doing! for god's sake it wont matter who gets in the [Wold Cup].

Egyptian blogger Lasto Adri [11] [Ar], deplores how what was supposed to be a sporting event, degenerated into a nasty confrontation. She writes:

مندهشة من التعصب وتدنى مستوى لغة الحوار بين مشجعى منتجب مصر ومنتخب الجزائر والظاهر بوضوح فى التعليقات على المواقع الإخبارية أو الرياضية… ومندهشة أكثر بتغذية هذه المأساه إعلاميا بتعليقات من بعض المذيعين (من كلا الجانبين)…
المشجعون الجزائريون أخطؤوا فى المبارة السابقة.. لكن هل الرد يكون هكذا؟.. هل الرد يكون بطلب البعض تسميم اللعيبة ولا إقلاقهم فى منامهم ولا توليع الإستاد وقت الماتش من التشجيع؟..

ونرفزتنى التعليقات على أغلب المواقع.. وإفتكرت لما الجزائر -بزعامة الرئيس الجزائري هواري بومدين- كانت أكتر دولة ساندت مصر فى حرب 1973، رغم فقرها الشديد..
حزينة ان انتهاء علاقة مابين شعبين تكون بشقاق على كورة…

I'm surprised by the level of intolerance and the mean language used by fans of the Egyptian and Algerian teams, which appears in most comments on news and sport websites… I'm also bewildered by the way some anchors and journalists (from both sides), are fueling this tragedy through their fiery comments…
Algerian fans misbehaved in the previous game .. but is the Egyptian reaction right? .. Should the answer be (as some suggested) the poisoning of Algerian players? Harassing and depriving them from sleep? Setting the stadium ablaze the day of the match?
I am upset by the comments on most sites .. I remembered when Algeria – led by President Houari Boumedienne – despite its extreme poverty, came to the support of Egypt in the 1973 war..
I'm saddened by the fact that such a relationship between two peoples might break up over a foot ball…