Released Aug 30, 2011 | WikiLeaks | TIME | Edited by Crethi Plethi
On Nov. 14 and again on Nov. 18 , Egypt went head to head with its archrival Algeria in an intense bid for a spot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It was the first time the two had played a World Cup qualifying match in 20 years, and in the weeks leading up to the first game and the days that followed, everyone from the Egyptian regime to local industries was busy ratcheting up support for the home team.
“[Mubarak] gave the game a sort of political character,” says Mustapha al-Sayyid, a political scientist at Cairo University. “Official newspapers depicted the encounter between the two teams as something very decisive, very important.”
It worked. In the aftermath, Egyptian and foreign observers alike marveled at a level of nationalist fervor and mass mobilization rarely seen before, and at a time when Mubarak, 81, is facing a rising tide of domestic dissent. On the night of the first game, which Egypt won, thousands of Egyptians flooded into the main thoroughfares of their capital, screaming, dancing and wreaking havoc. After the second game in Khartoum, in which Egypt lost its shot at the World Cup, the emphasis shifted to seeking revenge: hundreds amassed in front of the Algerian embassy in Cairo, burning Algerian flags, and eventually clashing with scores of riot police.
Dozens of Algerian and Egyptian fans were injured in assaults and clashes following the Nov. 14 match. Sudan and Algeria have accused the Egyptian press of unfair treatment. And in a particularly humiliating blow, the sport’s governing body FIFA launched formal disciplinary procedures against the Egyptian Football Association last week, in response to an attack by Egyptian fans on the Algerian team bus ahead of the Nov. 14 match.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoned the Algerian ambassador in Cairo…to hear complaints about violence against Egyptians and Egyptian businesses in Algiers; and Algeria slapped Egyptian telecommunications giant Orascom Telecom with a $596.6 million bill for outstanding taxes, sending Orascom shares — a popular Middle East stock — tumbling. On Nov. 19, Egypt recalled its ambassador to Algeria “for consultations.”
Had Egypt won its place in the World Cup , soccer pride might have been a boost to a regime under fire.
Read full article here [Time].
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INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000185
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/10
TAGS: PREL PGOV AG EG
SUBJECT: Egyptians Miffed Over Continuing Algerian Antagonism
REF: 09 CAIRO 2261; 09 CAIRO 2193; 09 ALGIERS 1077
CLASSIFIED BY: Donald Blome, Minister Counselor, State, ECPO; REASON:
¶1. (C) MFA Cabinet Advisor Mahmoud Afifi told poloff Feb 7 that
although the Egyptians have returned their ambassador to Algeria,
and are seeking to publicly downplay the recent diplomatic row
between the two countries, the Algerians continue to antagonize
Cairo. Note: The diplomatic tension was sparked by violence
surrounding two soccer matches between the countries’ national
teams in November (reftels). Algeria advanced to the World Cup as
the result of those two matches while Egypt’s hopes were dashed.
Egypt, however, recently defeated Algeria en route to winning the
African Cup. End note.
¶2. (C) Afifi said that as far as the Egyptians are concerned, “the
crisis is over.” However, he claimed the Algerians are still
harboring a grudge. He expressed frustration with the Algerian
media, and cited a Feb 7 MFA report that highlighted recent
Algerian articles critical of Egypt. Afifi said the criticism is
largely focused on Egyptian foreign policy, especially Cairo’s
relations with Israel, but Algerian media has also “attacked the
political equilibrium and the future of power in Egypt.” Afifi
said the Egyptian media had complied with a request from the GOE to
cease attacks on Algeria in early December, and did not understand
why Algerian media attacks continued. He said some believe the
continuing criticism is related to internal Algerian politics; he
noted that President Boutiflika and FM Medelci had been careful in
their statements, but Said Boutiflika, (the president’s younger
brother) had been leading the antagonism.
¶3. (C) According to Afifi, the Algerians have not responded to
Egypt’s demand for compensation to business property damage
following the November soccer matches, which he estimated to be in
excess of USD 60 million for approximately 14 Egyptian companies.
He claimed that the Algerians had been obstreperous toward Egyptian
efforts to file insurance claims.
¶4. (C) Afifi said the African Handball Championship will be hosted
in Cairo (beginning Feb 10) and will include the two Algerian
national teams (women and men). Afifi said the Egyptians have
encouraged the Algerians to participate. However, he complained
that the Algerians had requested over-the-top security measures,
and had sent an “antagonistic” letter to the African Handball
Federation expressing security concerns. Nevertheless, Afifi said
the GOE policy will continue to focus on a positive public posture