By: Tom Malone
Last week, an Egyptian soccer rivalry game in Port Said ended with a violent riot that killed 73 people and injured more than 1,000 fans. Rioters chased opposing players and fought rival fans in a disturbing display of aggression that caught the world’s attention through front page headlines.
The riot occurred during a period of political unrest in Egypt, a country that led the Arab Spring’s series of revolutions and uprisings. How will Egypt’s image recover from this atrocity?
Naturally, government officials issued statements quickly after the riot occurred that denounced the country’s support of the violence. The teams involved in the rivalry game spoke out against the violence in an attempt to detach the clubs’ involvement with post-game soccer aggression.
As police and military present during the riot took little action to stop the violence, officials blame their lack of enforcement on the riot’s escalation.
Former United States national team coach Bob Bradley signed on as the Egyptian national team coach five months ago. He issued a statement reinforcing his confidence in the country and his team, though a few players publicly vowed to never play soccer again.
Furthering the efforts to boost the country’s image, the Egyptian Prime Minister fired Egyptian Football Association high-ranking officials, some formerly holding the positions of Bradley’s bosses. World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, denounced government involvement in the sport.
Some experts believe that the violent event occurred due to increasing political turmoil in the country, while others believe the soccer fiasco sparked political unrest. Chicken or the egg? Either way, Egypt must rebound. Its image will rise or fall depending on the country’s ability to handle the current political and social passions that continue one year after its revolution.
*Also published on Cruisin’