First, we must recognise that football is a patriotic and political game, as the fans cheer for teams first and foremost based on their nationality and politics. It could also be seen as a political tool and manipulator, as the countries have funded them and spent billions of dollars on them. Football also tends to show the national emotions, tendencies, approaches, biases and rivalries during the games in the form of the people’s expression of their affiliations and national and religious loyalty. For example, I believe that many cheered for the Moroccan, Egyptian and Tunisian teams in the World Cup based on national or religious reasons. We also must not forget that some Arabs rooted for the Russian team against the Saudi team for political reasons. Therefore, the national and political link plays a major role in the masses’ cheering for one team or another.
Despite the fact that the World Cup took place in Russia and Russia tried to whitewash its crimes committed in Syria and show itself in a different light, this did not stop the Arab masses, from the ocean to the Gulf, from being happy when it was beaten by Croatia. They mocked Putin and praised the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. The social media sites, which have become a means to gauge the masses’ feelings and attitudes, were filled with her pictures and achievements in Croatia, after she rescued the country from its economic crisis without putting extra burdens on the people. This has made her popular and loved by her people and the Arabs expressed their wishes for a president like her. She travelled in a regular airplane out of her own pocket, amongst the people, as she had given up the presidential aircrafts because of the huge financial burdens on the state posed by their maintenance. The Arabs compared her to the Egyptian president, who bought five presidential aircrafts after assuming his position, in addition to the aircrafts that were already owned by the presidency.
The strange irony is the fact that the Arab masses who danced, rejoiced and sang at the defeat of Russia are the same ones who danced, rejoiced and sang at Russia’s victory over Saudi Arabia by five goals. This was because of Saudi Arabia and Bin Salman’s loyalty to Israel, and the masses ridiculed them all over social media because of the five goals scored against them.
The Egyptian team travelled with a large administrative cadre, as well as a chorus of media personalities and artists, including artists, journalists, presenters and MPs. They all travelled on the state’s dime, despite it suffering from a crushing economic crisis and inflation. This money was taken from the ordinary crushed and suffering citizens while these artists make millions in their shows and films. This provoked and angered the citizens, especially after the national team lost all of its games, and therefore the masses’ cheering for the team turned into an attack on them, especially after they lost to Saudi Arabia. It seemed obvious that the match was sold to Saudi Arabia, just like the Tiran and Sanafir islands were. The angry masses met them at the airport upon their return with curses and obscenities, causing them to flee and quickly get into cars to escape the people and cameras waiting for them at the airport.
The strange thing about the Egyptian case is that nearly half of the Egyptian population were hoping the national team would be defeated in its first match. This is because they would’ve attributed their win to the leadership and President Al-Sisi and dedicate their win to him, crediting him for his sponsorship of sports and other cheap hypocritical words. However, the fact that a nation would wish defeat upon its own country is a case that should be studied by psychologists and sociologists.
Politics played a key role with the Egyptian national team, as they stayed in Grozny, a city in Chechnya, thousands of kilometres away from the stadiums. They stayed in a hotel owned by Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of the UAE. The significance of this is clear, especially after the murderous head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s minion and the killer of the Muslims in his country, met them in the airport. This was an attempt to improve his reputation and image in the world, as he is condemned for his massacres in Chechnya. This is especially true since he granted Mohamed Salah citizenship, even though he deprives the opposition of their citizenship. This is a major blow to Mohamed Salah, dealt to him by the Egyptian government, making him a target of condemnation and indignation in all the global newspapers and magazines. In fact, the talented player, Mohamed Salah, lost a lot of his popularity after the World Cup matches, despite scoring two goals.
Hence, politics intervened in all aspects of our lives, even in the football. Our hearts and minds are now moved based on the goal and to which country it belongs, and so it’s lost all pleasure!
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.