Mohammed al-Batawy
July 8, 2019

Immediately after the match between Egypt and South Africa, which resulted in the exit of the Egyptian team from the African Cup of Nations, reports circulated demanding that members of the Egyptian Football Association be banned from travelling, their assets be frozen and that they be investigated on corruption charges.

Cairo has long hoped the Egyptian football team would make gains in the tournament, which is taking place in Egypt.

The media promoted the team to win the championship, and the masses mobilised to encourage them.

The events are comical – 48 hours ago no one was talking about corruption in the Egyptian Football Association.

Media massively mobilised the masses to encourage the team and focus on the hope of winning the championship.

All state institutions worked towards the same goal, pushing the masses to support the team. There was no talk of resignation or accountability.

The media considered the encouragement of the national team as an act of patriotism, and the renunciation of it as treason, or lack of love for the country, and a hatred for the happiness of Egyptians.

It is noteworthy that the Egyptian Fatwa House (Dar Al-Iftaa) called on the Egyptians to encourage the team, even though the institution is primarily religious. However, Dar al-Ifta considered encouraging the national football team as a mark of its love for the country, and love for the homeland is kind of faith.

When Egyptian player Amr Warda sexually harassed a Mexican fashion model the player was not held accountable, although Egyptian law prohibits sexual harassment, and stipulates a jail sentence as punishment.

The Egyptian Football Association decided to remove the player from the team, but later reversed that decision and reduced it to a temporary suspension until the end of the first round of the tournament.

All this was because they hoped the Egyptian team would win for the eighth time in its history.

In the second half of the Egypt and South Africa match, Warda participated in the game and came to the field amid greetings from the fans, but did not score a goal, and Egypt lost the match.

If Amr Warda had scored a goal or played a role in winning the match, he would have been considered a hero, and the sexual harassment scandal would have been forgotten. 

After the match, Hani Abo Rida, Chairman of the Egyptian Football Association, announced his resignation and called on members of the association’s board to resign.

Vice Presidents Saif Zaher and Ahmed Shubair resigned from their positions, in addition to members Ahmed Mujahid and Hazem Imam.

Nevertheless, all this did not help the union, as a number of lawyers filed complaints against the president and members of the Egyptian Football Association.

The complaints accused the Egyptian Football Association Council of “committing serious administrative and financial irregularities” and of choosing “a weak technical body, both technically and administratively.”

Despite the fact that this technical body had already existed for months, none of these reports were presented before the team left the tournament.

Many Egyptians consider that all the financial and administrative irregularities would not have been revealed had the team won the championship. On the contrary, we would have heard praise for the Egyptian Football Association. 

Egypt, like many African countries, does not have a mechanism to hold officials accountable regardless of results, and to ensure fairness and transparency regardless of achievement.

Egyptians fear that this news is to quell negative public opinion after the team lost, and that once the crisis passes and citizens forget, the file will be put away and there will still be no real accountability. 

The Egyptian Football Association has a long history of that. The most recent example is what happened at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Egyptian participation in the World Cup was considered a scandal, and the performance of the Egyptian team was weaker than expected, and disappointed many.

But all promise of accountability evaporated, all that happened was that the coach Hector Cuper was dismissed and another coach, Javier Aguirre, was appointed instead.

After the team lost this time around, the head of the Egyptian Football Association dismissed the new coach Javier Aguirre. Fans fear that this will be the only step taken towards accountability.