Egyptian Soccer Riots and Sports Degredation: A Response

Posted: February 2, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , , ,

In response to a heated argument of the absurdity of sports based on the Egyptian soccer riots of February 1, 2012…

Condescension surrounding the role of sports in society is usually supported by pointing to extreme sets of cases involving fans behaving above and beyond traditional “fandom” usually involving some absolutely asinine behavior.  For instance, the guy who poisoned the Auburn tree, anyone who cries over the result of a contest, vandalism following major victories/losses (Vancouver), and the over-spending on sports events and paraphernalia.  I, for one, am on record as saying that the Packers winning Super Bowl 45 was the happiest day in my life.  Why!?  Well, there is something to be said for the role of attachment absent control of outcome.  I am in large part in control of my ability to graduate, get into schools, take trips, etc.  I am not in control of winning football games but the emotional benefits (positive and negative) derived from games makes the highs incredibly high.  This is no different than attachment to pop culture figures, cities, companies, or anything else engrained in people’s lives.  What is true – something I will defend until the end of my time here- is the parallelism between sports and life.  Whether people want to accept it or not, sports mirrors multiple dimensions of life from birth to death with the entire sociopolitical/economic minutia in between.

The deadly riots following the upset victory of Al-Masry over ever popular Al-Ahly add another complex chapter to this parallel.  According to Associated Press reports, Al-Masry fans rushed the field and began attacking Al-Ahly fans with minimal intervention on behave of an embattled police force connected to the military forces currently viewed in a negative light.  Armed police were told in November not to intervene in the fans due to political pressures following deaths related to police intervention in protests.

This game – this event – highlights the same themes present amid non-sporting social settings.  Both sides began the strong criticism of police forces for not protecting and maintaining safety but more than likely would be critical of a strong use of violence given the general disdain for armed forces.  Mirroring the complexities of the Occupy Movement, fans weary of the violence also expressed blame towards police for conspiring to undermine control by not stopping violence.  (This parallels claims that incidents within Occupy movements counter to the collective maybe attempts by infiltrators to destabilize the movement at large).  Like life the truth is somewhere amid the rubble, bloodshed, and dispersed among both sides but also like life the truth seems not to matter.

International soccer is in a precarious state with caricatures of soccer fans as racist hooligans supported by the wealth of intolerant behavior among fans in the most salient of leagues in America, the English Premier League, and repeated racial discrepancies of players (re: John Terry and Luis Suarez).  The Egyptian riots, however, file into a different but equally damning set of perspectives on sports: these fans care too much and act crazy over a match that means nothing.  Obviously, these sports do mean things to fans and dismissing their reckless behavior as rubbish is misguided.  I absolutely do not support rioting or violence but I also find it offensive and senseless to view sports fans domestic and abroad under the same umbrella due to the more prevalent behavior of a set of people in a singular event (Same can be said in response to the fan attacks in baseball and football or the racist overtures this NHL season).

The tragedy in the 70+ who lost their lives from a sporting contest should not be treated differently from those who lose their lives in seemingly safe circumstances outside of sporting arenas.  Sports is composed of the complexities, contradictions, and hopefulness that subsequently endow it to be a magical elixir to solve (or at least temporarily relieve) people of reality.  In fact, sport is a societal petri dish housing cures and viruses alike.   As the negative gets analyzed let’s not lose sight of the fact that most times sports does meet our general threshold of acceptability and avoid painting sports, countries, or groups of people connected by activity with a broad, obtuse brush.

  1. dallosa89 says:

    good post Allen…I agree with you 100%.

    Even though it has it’s analytical weaknesses, I would encourage anybody interested in this general topic to grab a copy of “How Soccer Explains the World.” You might actually begin to understand how and why people could possibly kill one another over something so seemingly trivial as a ball being kicked into a net. One need look no further than the Old-Firm Derby in Scotland between Celtic and Rangers to realize that in some contexts the game is a microcosm of societal tensions, contradictions, and complexities that transcend whatever is actually happening on the field-of-play.

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