Mohamed Youssef, the Kung-Fu player who raised the Rabaa sign after winning the Gold Medal in the Sports Accord Combat Games competition in Russia on 27 October, has caused much controversy lately in Egypt. The Kung-Fu federation’s decision to suspend him for one year has been met with both anger and exhilaration. Daily News Egypt interviewed the award-winning athlete to shed light on the man behind the storm.
Did the Kung-Fu Federation ban you?
I have known about the decision. The federation met on Saturday night and decided to suspend me for a year. However, I was not officially informed of the decision yet. I will not comment on the decision until I am officially informed of it.
When did you begin playing Kung-Fu and how many trophies did you claim?
I started training in 1999 with Captain Emad Eissa, who is still my coach, in Al-Moa’sasa Al-Askareya club and the National Egyptian team. I competed in the Alexandria and national championships, which I won 14 years in a row, from 1999 to 2013. I won the Pan-Arab championship twice, as well as the African championship. I also participated in the Kung-Fu World Cup [for the first time] in 2007 but unfortunately, I lost. In the 2009 Championship, I claimed the sixth ranking. Then I claimed first place in an International Championship in Poland in 2011.
In the 2011 World Cup, [held] in Turkey, I came in fifth place, and first place in the Sports Accord World Cup of Combat Games in Russia [where I raised the Rabaa sign].
What has happened since winning the final game in Russia to the moment?
Let’s divide [what happened] into phases; the first phase was in Russia. After the final game, we had 30 minutes until the ceremony began; I changed from my competition clothes into regular ones [a training suit and the Rabaa T-shirt underneath].
The ceremony then began. I received my medal, the Egyptian flag was raised and the Egyptian national anthem was played. After that, we started taking photos with the [Kung-Fu] International Federation board members. I opened up my training jacket and showed the T-shirt that I wanted to be photographed wearing [the Rabaa T-shirt]. Chairman of the Egyptian Federation Captain Sherif Mostafa was present.
Was there an immediate reaction after you showed the T-shirt?
There was no immediate reaction. When we went back to the hotel, around 2am, I posted the photos on Facebook. At 4am, Mostafa called me and said: “Remove the photos from your account, it will get you into trouble.”
Our bus to the airport was scheduled at 10am; until then, there was no reaction in Egypt.
So you were not deported?
I don’t wish to comment on some procedures [taken with me], such as being deported or whether my medal was confiscated, I’m still waiting for the federation’s decision.
When I was back in Egypt, I was interrogated by different entities.
Entities other than the Kung-Fu Federation?
Yes. If I send a report to the International Olympic Committee, they will ban the federation.
Do these entities include the army?
[They are] different entities.
Are these entities not concerned with sports?
They are sports-concerned entities; I am still waiting for the federation’s decisions. The Ministry of Sports supposedly cannot issue a decision against me, they can only issue a decision against the federation. They have nothing to do with me.
What exactly happened since your return to Cairo?
I was interrogated by several entities. Add to that the constant attack from media outlets, the thing that greatly affects me negatively. Some media personnel and newspapers accused me of being non-patriotic; this upsets me.
Did anyone from the Anti-Coup Alliance or the Muslim Brotherhood contact you after the incident?
Nobody contacted me, except my friends and my neighbours. There was a ceremony in celebration of the new Hijri year in my hometown [Alexandria]. They [The organisers of the ceremony] invited me to the ceremony. I had no prior knowledge that they would honour me during the ceremony; [once I found out] I left the ceremony because I did not want to be honoured from a non-sport-concerned entity.
So you mean that nobody has exploited your action politically?
If somebody is exploiting it, they’re exploiting it without my consent.
Do your teammates support you?
All my teammates support me.
You play for a military club, Al-Moa’sasa Al-Askareya. What was the effect that had on the procedures taken against you?
The people in Al-Moa’sasa Al-Askareya Club are very decent and respectful. If I was playing in a different club, the procedures taken against me would have been similar.
Minister of Sports Taher Abu Zeid recently said that the Kung-Fu Federation might be dissolved due to its “Brotherhood-affiliations”. Are these affiliations true?
I don’t know how credible these accusations are, but I can’t see this happening, as they have to prove it legally.
What kind of decisions against you would you see as unjust?
Any decision that includes punishing me is unjust, even if it is a one-day-suspension. (This question was asked before the suspension decision was issued).
The [Rabaa] sign I raised is not political, religious or partisan. It is an emotional feeling towards my friends who died in the [Rabaa] sit-in dispersal. Many Egyptians sympathise with Rabaa Al-Adaweya [casualties], as all Egyptians’ blood was spilled.
It is a humanitarian action [that I've taken]. I wished that my deceased friends would share my happiness. It is a message that I did not forget my friends; it does not have a political, partisan or a religious implication. I have raised the Rabaa sign after raising the Egyptian flag and after the national anthem. I did not insult the Egyptian flag or the Egyptian anthem. I have a video of the full ceremony that I did not publish yet. I will publish it in the right time and it will exonerate me.
Were you deported from Russia?
I do not wish to comment.
Why did you not travel with your teammates to participate in the World Cup in Malaysia?
It’s the federation’s decision. The Technical Committee of the Federation has the right to choose which players represent Egypt in the World Cup.