football hooligans and diplomacy

Both Egyptian and Algerian officials could have been classier in handling the mess that has resulted from their rivalry on the field. The two national football teams were competing for the last African slot in next year’s world cup in South Africa. Egypt won the second leg in Cairo, resulting in a deadlock in the group, which then necessitated a playoff in a neutral country. Sudan was chosen and Algeria won.

The fans of either team did not find it in their interest to keep things this simple though. From Khartoum to Cairo to Algiers to Marseilles they expressed their anger by rioting and setting business and boats on fire. FIFA is considering disciplinary action on Egypt because Egyptian fans pelted the Algerian football team’s bus with stones. In Algiers Egyptian businesses were raided by angry mobs. The running battles extended to France, where Algerian and Egyptian immigrants clashed in Marseilles. Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Algeria.

There is pride in making it to the world cup, but there is also sanity and diplomatic decency. This should not have gone this far.