For many Egyptians, 19 November is a black stain on our history, since it’s the anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes of 2011. With over 40 dead and thousands other injured in four days of clashes with the MOI, there has been no accountability or justice for the victims’ families. In a post-30 June world, with the general populace supporting the MOI in their “War on Terrorism”, the day of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes is quickly becoming a date that the nation would like to see swept under the carpet and not spoken of again, unless it’s to remind MB supporters that they didn’t stand by the revolutionaries on that day. The problem is that 19 November just might happen to be the day of the World Cup qualifying game for the Egyptian national team against Ghana.
For the outside world, this may seem like a silly bit of information, since it wouldn’t make sense for people to forget a national tragedy because of a football game; the outside world, unfortunately, doesn’t understand Egyptians and football. FYI: football is the ruling religion of Egypt. It’s literally the one thing that unites all Egyptians, and their one main source of pride. One of the main achievements of the Mubarak regime is that Egypt won the majority of its seven African cup titles and qualified for the world-cup during his reign. In 2010, Egypt had done everything but declare war on Algeria over a football match for the World Cup qualifier. During the revolution, the Ahly Ultras was the only group that managed to get the police convicted for the killing of their compatriots, because Al-Ahly is the most popular football team in Egypt (fact), and while you can kill any group of Egyptians, you can’t upset the Al-Ahly fans (another fact).
Thus, it goes without saying that the importance of Egypt qualifying for the World Cup cannot be understated: football is the only thing in which we are competitive, and despite having a renowned team, we only qualified twice; the first time was during the first ever World Cup, where only eight teams played. Given how superstitious we are as a population, if we qualify for the World Cup under a given leader’s rule, we will hail that as the reason we won in the first place, since he is the good luck charm that broke our World Cup curse.
And again, dear foreign readers, I am being 100% serious here.
Now, what makes this 19 November even more special is that the game will be played in the 30 June Stadium, also known as the Air Defense stadium, since 30 June is the national holiday for the “Air Defense” way before it was the day of uprising. So, we will be playing the most important game in our recent football history, where we might qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 23 years, on the anniversary of the clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud, in the 30 June Stadium.
Did I mention that 19 November is also General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s birthday?
No? Oh yeah, it is. He was born on that day, apparently. So if we qualify on that day, not only is Al-Sisi our good luck charm, it is also his birthday.
Also, did I mention that the Egyptian Football Association chose that specific date for the game, when they had four other dates they could’ve chosen? No, well, that’s also true. They could’ve chosen any other day that week, and they chose Mohamed Mahmoud’s anniversary, which is also Al-Sisi’s birthday. Whether they chose that day to help erase the memory of a painful day, a way to pay tribute to Al-Sisi or both, is up for debate amongst conspiracy theorists and football aficionados. Whether they are callous bastards or legendary kiss-ups is probably a moot debate, for chances are that they are both. One fact is certain, they chose that day, and thus gambled with their lives, because they forgot one thing in their short-sighted calculations: what if we lose?
What if the Egyptian National Team loses to Ghana in the 30 June stadium, on Al-Sisi’s birthday, on the anniversary of Mohamed Mahmoud?
How insanely symbolic would that be, especially for a population that is as superstitious and emotional as ours? How quickly will the rhetoric become “God didn’t grant us this victory because of how displeased he is with us over us ignoring the blood of Mohamed Mahmoud’s martyrs?” How quickly will such a loss re-invigorate the memory of Mohamed Mahmoud and its martyrs? How fast will the Rabaa protesters use that the fact that this happened on Al-Sisi’s birthday to paint him as a bad omen to the country? Mind you, we are the same people who believed in the “curse of Morsi”, and have painstakingly detailed the amount of natural disasters that have befallen any country he visited to further prove that he was bad luck to Egypt; also, we never had anything as poignant as Egypt losing the disqualifying game for the World Cup on his birthday to work with. Hell, had that happened on Morsi’s birthday during his reign, it would’ve been the final nail in his coffin. The population wouldn’t need an energy crisis to fully turn against him; the World Cup is more than enough.
I am not a superstitious person. I don’t believe that God punishes people for their sins by not allowing them to win sporting events; I lived in Boston for five years and experienced the Red Sox’s “curse of the Bambino” first hand. I truly want us to break our curse and qualify for the World Cup. I, however, want justice for the Mohamed Mahmoud victims even more, and I can’t help but curse at the Egyptian National Football Association for putting us all in this situation. They had better be bribing the hell out of the Ghana National Team right now, or else they will be the first to pay on every level if we lose. Either way, this 19 November will be the Egyptian International Day of Drama, and rightfully so.