Gaddafi ‘to mediate’ in Egypt-Algeria football row
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has agreed to mediate between Algeria and Egypt in an increasingly heated row over football, state media say. Libyan news agency Jana reported that the Arab League had asked Col Gaddafi to intercede between the two nations.
Each side accused the other’s fans of violent attacks after last week’s vital World Cup play-off, which Algeria won. Meanwhile, about 150 Egyptian and Algerian academics and intellectuals issued an appeal to defuse the row.
Algeria qualified for the World Cup by beating Egypt 1-0 in the play-off held in Sudan on 18 November. But Egyptians were incensed by reports that 21 of their fans had been attacked as they left the stadium in Khartoum.
At an earlier game between the two sides in Cairo, Algerian players were hurt by stone-throwing Egyptian fans and 32 supporters from both sides were injured in clashes when the match finished. The Jana news agency reported that Arab League chief Amr Musa had asked Col Gaddafi to play the role of mediator.
“As chairman of the African Union, the Guide of the Revolution [Col Gaddafi] is going to work to bridge the gulf that has opened up between Egypt and Algeria,” Jana reported. In their online petition the academics and intellectuals said that those behind the unrest represented only themselves, and not their teams.
One of the signatories of the petition, Dr Amr Magdi of Cairo, told the BBC that the media had played a major role in triggering the unrest. “The media in both countries, especially the private TV channels in Egypt and the private papers in Algeria, were very aggressive, irrational, spreading lies and exaggerations,” he said.
“I think a lot of good people in both countries felt angry against the other people, not because they were violated, but because the media misled them.” The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum says media in both countries have talked of little else since the matches.
Diplomatic spats have followed and Algerian tour operators have now suspended all trips to Egypt. Algeria’s Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni has accused the Egyptian authorities of failing to provide players with adequate protection.
Meanwhile, Egypt has accused Algerian authorities of orchestrating a campaign of violence against its football fans. BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says repeated appeals for calm and rational thinking have been ignored.
He says politicians on both sides appear to believe they can boost their popularity by playing the nationalist card. Fifa has opened an inquiry into the Khartoum incidents. It has already begun disciplinary proceedings against Egypt after the earlier match in Cairo. The teams took part in the play-off after they tied at the top of their qualification group.