Corruption allegations, resignations, the early departure of the host: The continental football competition in Egypt calls for the afflicted country.
The preliminary round had survived host Egypt at the African Cup immaculately: three wins, five goals, no goal. But the team played for the star striker Mohammed Salah already against the weaker teams from Zimbabwe, Congo and Uganda not convincing. The pharaohs, who acted as co-favorites, had barely managed to score chances, complained the state newspaper Al-Ahram, Also, Egypt had lacked a stable defensive, which was still available under coach Héctor Cúper, who was scored after the preliminary round-out at the 2018 World Cup. The revenge on Sunday in the defeat in the second round against South Africa. The resulting from a counterattack 0: 1 from striker Thembinkosi Lorch in the 85th minute crashed Egypt in shock and grief – and the Football Association into chaos and a deep crisis.
Mexican head coach Javier Aguirre resigned and his entire staff was dismissed after "the hopes of the Egyptian fans were destroyed," as union head Hany Abo Rida said. He himself followed the "moral obligation" to give up his office, and the entire board joined.
Deputy Speaker Soliman Wahdan, meanwhile, demanded to investigate the officials for corruption and accused them of inability – also in dealing with the affair of midfielder Amr Warda. He was initially thrown out of the squad for allegations of sexual harassment, only to be brought back later. Salah and captain Ahmed el-Mohamady had publicly expressed their solidarity with him. In Egypt, where sexual harassment is a big problem, this has led to wild debates in the social networks – and concerns in the national team in the current tournament.
This time, only great disappointment remained, almost a kind of indifference
El-Mohamady apologized on Twitter for the fans with not a word, but only for the worst performance ever at an African Cup. He wished the team "all the best for the future", which triggered speculation about a farewell to the right-back. And Mohammed Salah, still celebrated as a folk hero after qualifying for the World Cup, tweeted, "God willing, we will learn from the mistakes we made."
Football is popular sport in Egypt, the heroes of the fans play mainly in the English Premier League – which is in Cairo even more a street sweeper than the national league. All of Egypt, with its nearly 100 million inhabitants, many of whom are suffering from increasingly difficult living conditions and political repression, could have risen to a tournament victory in their own country. Football can bridge trenches between Christians and Muslims, between followers of President Abdelfattah al-Sisi and his opponents. But now only disappointment remained, almost a kind of indifference. And the question of how it goes with the national team, yes with the football in Egypt.
According to Sisi, the tournament should also serve to increase Egypt's international reputation, which has suffered mainly because of systematic human rights violations. But the relationship between the state power and the ultras has been strained since football fans came in first in the 2011 protests against the ousted regime of dictator Hosni Mubarak. In the twentieth and seventieth minutes of the match against South Africa, the lights of tens of thousands of mobile phones were shining on the stands of the stadium in Cairo. It was a silent remembrance of the dead, a quiet protest against police violence. "The blood of our martyrs has nothing to do with whether we support Ahly or Zamalek," said one fan with regard to the two rival Kairene clubs.
The increasingly paranoid surveillance state also wants to control football
In 2015, in front of a stadium in Cairo, 20 people were killed, according to some reports 22, when police fired tear gas and probably live ammunition into the crowd in front of the only gate – most, if not all, of those who died or were stifled were Zamalek fans. It should have been the first game of the league, which will be played again in front of the audience. Because the league played in front of empty bleachers since 72 people had been killed in Port Said in February 2012 – according to other reports 74 -, most Ahly Ultras. Fans of the host club al-Masry had attacked them with stones, clubs, bottles. The police did not intervene and kept the stadium gates closed. The season was canceled, the league suspended two years.
In the new season, Egypt's fans are allowed back into the stadiums – but for tickets you have to register electronically with the ID card, undergo a background check by the domestic intelligence service. The increasingly paranoid surveillance state also wants to control football. For many Ultras this is out of the question, and so the grandstands could remain empty in the future.