At times, the Beautiful Game has less than beautiful fans, as this week so clearly demonstrated,
“When you insult my dignity… I will beat you on the head.” That was the Egyptian president’s son Alaa Mubarak who attended the Egypt-Algeria soccer match in Khartoum, capital of the Sudan for the last World Cup qualifying spot from Africa. You guessed it, Algeria won, 1-0.
Subsequently, about 1,000 fans burned Algerian flags near the victor’s embassy in Cairo; later 15 cars were damaged and a number of shops trashed.
“We should treat Algeria like any country that has declared war on us,” said a student while the Egyptian ambassador in Algiers was called home “for consultations.”
World football governing body Fifa had opened disciplinary proceedings against Egypt after the Algerian team bus was pelted with stones in Cairo before their previous match in the Egyptian capital. The same body refused to ordain a re-match between France and Ireland after a blown call tossed the game and started a flood of enraged protest that climbed from the street pub to the governing Ivory Towers.
In France, even the perpetrator of the “hand of God,” Thierry Henry, exclaimed that the “fairest solution” to the illegal goal, that saw France beat Ireland for the last qualifying spot from Europe, would be to replay the game.
“Naturally, I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa,” said Henry with considerable class. “There is little more I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalizing goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish,” he said.
Still, soccer-induced outrage and thuggery could have been a lot worse. But the British weren’t involved.