The World Cup qualifying play-off between Algeria and Egypt will undoubtedly go down in the footballing annals, but for the wrong reasons.
By some it is seen as a sporting event where the stakes went well and truely beyond that of sport. On its arrival in Cairo on November 12, the Algerian team bus was violently attacked by a group of Egyptian youths armed with rocks. Three players were injured. The absence of official condemnation from Cairo for this attack fuelled Algerian anger. The clash between the two teams quickly spread to the political arena. In retaliation Algerians trashed Egypt Air’s local office in Algiers as well as that of mobile telephone operator Orascom, a subsidiary company of an Egyptian group, resulting in damage estimated at five million euros. The two countries find themselves on the brink of a diplomatic crisis because through this match, it seems that the two North African giants are battling for more than sporting supremacy Beyond the acts of sabotage, attacks, rumours and provocations it could inflame relations between two historically allied nations To talk about this high-tension match this evening between Algeria and Egypt, we are here with two Euronews journalists, Mohamed el Hami, an Egyptian and Adel Delall, an Algerian. What are your feelings in relations to these shocking events? “I think what has happened is natural, especially because the media played a major role in this affair. A media war broke out over these last few months between the two countries. It is necessary to take into account as the supporters of the two teams are young people who are unemployed and therefore it was a way of letting off steam through sport, in my opinion this is what generated the incidents.” “Unfortunately this match became a massive boxing bout, a place for competition and violence, personally I do not think it is natural, the Egyptian authorities and the police had the capacity to put an end to these violent attacks against the supporters of the Algerian team, it is a terrible shame there is major absence of sporting spirit.” Are the relations between your two countries good, do you think this could degenerate into a diplomatic crisis? “I do not think that will generate a diplomatic crisis even if the ambassadors of the two countries were called together to explain the recent violence, I think it is temporary.” “I do not agree with my friend here because we are on the verge of a diplomatic crisis even if it hasn’t been declared yet, in truth the diplomatic relations between the two countries are very good, for centuries they have had very solid historical relations, but the incidents and the aggressions that the supporters and Algerian team underwent showed that these relations which have been qualified as solid are in fact, and unfortunately, very fragile.”