The Super football match launching the new football season was played today nine months after the Portsaid massacre when 74 Ahly Ultras fans, young men in their teens and twenties, were brutally killed. No verdict has yet been announced in the case. However, matches had been put on hold in honour of the fallen. Egyptians were so devastated they didn’t want to watch football, and many construed watching a football match as a betrayal to those slain.
The Ahly Ultras, in particular, were against reinstating the matches until a judgment befalls those who murdered their comrades. They insisted they would stop this particular match between Ahly and Enbi. With foreboding anxiety, Egyptians watched. Would this confrontation cause another massacre? Are young men so ready to give up their lives?
The Ultras traveled to Alexandria where the match was to take place, blocked the entrance to the hotel where the players were staying. When bus drivers refused to take them to the stadium, they decided to walk to Borg El Arab—a good 40 Km. Simultaneously, those who hadn’t travelled to Alexandria congregated on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in the vicinity of the Ministry of Interior in Cairo.
The Ultras remained defiant ready to die for their cause, egged on by the tweeters and other prominent speakers. The officials were adamant, too, that the match proceeds as planned.
At the end, the match did indeed take place. The players were sneaked out of the hotel and rushed to the secured stadium, and they went ahead with the game. True the match was delayed an hour, but it is being played as I write this post. Needless to say, the general atmosphere is not conducive to a good competitive match, indeed no spectators were allowed in the stadium, but the game went on nonetheless.
This is one of the few times that protestors demand a change, be it rightfully or wrongfully, and officials don’t comply. This is definitely a different approach from the last 18 months.
The institutions governing Egypt since the revolution, be it SCAF, the government(s), the police force, or officials in general had been unable to handle the protests. Intimidated and worried they’d cause more harm than not, they had always relented and given in to every claim. True many of the ultimatums set by protestors were valid, but many others weren’t; disappointingly, it became the norm to expect to achieve the best and speediest results by protesting, demonstrating, and striking.
This time it didn’t work out that way, and it seems that officials were not intimidated enough. They set a precedent. The moral behind their action is protesting may not get you what you want after all. And many Egyptians agree with this outcome. As much as Egyptians are devastated over the Portsaid massacre, many realize that better ways exist to achieve results than protesting and disputing forcefully.
Egyptians must choose their battles wisely. So much needs to be changed in Egypt, but if we draw the country to a standstill for every personal wrong, it would reach gridlock. Public bus drivers, teachers, flight attendants, and union workers are a mere few of those who have gotten the country to a standstill. They stood on rails, closed airports, disrupted classes, and defied systems. It seems very self-centered to bring the country to a halt every time someone is dissatisfied. Resorting to disruption is abusive.
And extremes don’t end there. Families of criminals demand their discharge; others attack the judges if they don’t like the verdict. And radical Muslims vow to cut water and electricity if the Coptic governor is not removed—all cases where fairness is abused and justice is smeared.
I’m not saying we should stop protesting. Quite the contrary—protesting remains the only way we can remain loyal to the Revolution, vigilant against atrocities, and caring enough to create change.
However, there are battles and there are battles. Egyptians must prioritize. If Sinai becomes a hotbed for Islamists or is about to be taken over, we fight; if the Ikhwan force all women to wear the hijab against their wish, we protest; if communication is censored or freedom of speech is curtailed, we go to Tahrir. Still, we cannot protest against every cause, be it minor, personal, or debilitating to others because other Egyptians will take this as a green light: let’s get what we want by force.
Before Egyptians mistake lawlessness for freedom, before the state loses the respect of its people altogether, before every Egyptian circumvents the law and goes after the wrongdoers personally, this had to happen. And it did.
Let’s choose our battles wisely, Egyptians.