Take Us Back to Where We Belong, Egypt
Egyptian football has become very boring to watch since the restart of the domestic league this year, following the cancellation of domestic football activity last year due to the Port Said tragedy. The idea of watching a football match without any fans is just sickening. You can almost hear the players and coaching staff in the middle of the game from the pitch, something that we’ve never been used to.
The decision to play the league behind closed doors is one of many fatal mistakes the Egyptian FA has made throughout the years. Hiding behind security bars isn’t really the way forward for Egypt. However, having the fans back to where they belong would be an ideal step in the right direction. Since the league started hitting the ground running, Egyptian clubs and the national team haven’t lost a home game in international competitions, in which fans’ attendance was permitted. Just recently Ismaily were knocked out of the semi-finals of the UAFA Club Cup, after losing to Algeria’s USMA on penalties at home, following a 0-0 score on aggregate. Although, following elimination from the Cup, the few Ismaily fans allowed in ripped up stadium seats while led to Egyptian security forces responding with teargas. Also, Al-Ahly fans were handed a four-match ban by the CAF after their excessive use of flares against Kenya’s Tuskar.
The Ultras groups will never disappear, and keeping them away from the stands is not the solution. They will always find a way to outplay the system, and the cycle will never end. There exists numerous Ultras groups in various countries, who usually get into trouble with each other, or even with their governments, including: Italy, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and even hooligans in England. We need to learn from these countries’ respective Football Associations’ examples. We need a concrete set of rules addressing violence in stadiums, starting from the players on the pitch to fans’ behaviors in the stands. More importantly, these sets of rules shouldn’t be changed for the sake of any club under any circumstances, thus, eventually guaranteeing their acceptance of the rules.
Margret Thatcher and her cabinet can be used as an example for this. Although she committed an inhumane act by hiding the facts of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, she, with the help of her cabinet, managed to dramatically decrease the violence in English football, and also keep it much safer for the fans. The English FA started using unique identification cards for football grounds’ entrance, thus ensuring the recognition of whoever enters the stadium. They also increased the amount of security cameras around the fields. However, this would’ve never been a successful project without a strict set of rules guiding the atmosphere.
Playing matches behind closed doors will only take Egyptian football into a downward spiral. The Egyptian FA needs more creative thinking to help the game, rather than their traditional ways of decision-making. The players obviously perform better when fans attend their games: They’re motivated by their cheers, and even their boos and criticism can drive teams forward. In this critical stage of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Egyptian football needs every single inch of backing from the government, FA, and of course, the fans. This puzzle needs all three pieces together simultaneously for the prosperity of Egyptian football.
Omar Khairallah: Follow @Balooza_
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