Egypt Politics Take Toll on Sports

EgyptAfter scoring one of the two goals that won the top soccer team in Egypt, Al-Ahly, their eighth African Champions’ League trophy, Ahmed Abdul-Zaher has been suspended from playing in the next game in Morocco. The player was accused of encouraging political unrest when he raised the four-finger sign for “Rabaa” after he scored last Sunday.

The gesture was created in support of protestors who gathered in Rabaa El-Adaweyah Square in protest of the Egyptian army’s regime and President Mohamed Moursy’s removal. The sign became even more widespread after these protestors were violently attacked by the army under the orders of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Abdul-Zaher is not the only person who has suffered severe consequences because of this sign. Sports Accord Combat Games gold medalist Mohamed Youssef was also charged with perpetuating political uprising after taking off his jacket and revealing a shirt with the “Rabaa” sign printed on it. Upon reentry into Egypt after the championship, Youssef was arrested in Cairo airport. His medal and prize money were confiscated. Both men were accused of non-patriotism and even treason.

Abdul-Zaher’s suspension was ordered by Sports Minister of Egypt Taher Abu Zeid, who said that the soccer player’s actions were a “grave insult” and that further action would be taken against him.

Whether officials are right in their accusations or not isn’t the biggest problem, however. Abdul-Zaher’s teammate Mohamed Aboutrika has also on multiple occasions both worn shirts in support of the protest movement as well as waved the “Rabaa” sign himself at games and on the street. No actions were taken against him, even though he is a vocal protestor of the military takeover of Egypt and a Muslim Brotherhood enthusiast. Aboutrika even went as far as refusing to accept an award from the current Minister of Sports in Egypt, stating that he would only accept it from the real minister who was part of President Moursy’s team. There has been no reason given why Aboutrika has not faced any consequences for the same actions.

On the subject, Abdul-Zaher denied that his expression had any relation to political opinion, and that he was actually honoring all of the people who died in the Square. He said that all of those who lost their lives should be honored, regardless of their political points of view.

“I didn’t mean political excitement to any one side or fan. All I meant to do was to remember the dead, whether in Rabaa, any other citizen and even policemen in Egypt,” Abdul-Zaher said.

The player’s teammates are anything but silent about his suspension. Several players have threatened to skip the next match and any matches thereafter in which he will not be allowed to play in. Fans of the soccer superstar are also clamoring for his reinstatement, many claiming that if he is kept from playing they will also boycott the match. There have been no official claims that the match will be cancelled, but protests against Abdul-Zaher’s punishment are still very much alive.

By Hend Salah

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