A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hey, Maybe Americans Can Play This Game After All

With all the McChrystal news today (is the adjective McChrystalline?), I haven't said anything about USA 1, Algeria 0. As the paper at left shows, the loss got bigger headlines in Algiers than the win did in the US, not to mention a bigger picture than President Bouteflika's. But then Algeria takes soccer seriously: remember the great Algeria-Egypt soccer wars of last fall? (here here, here, here, here, and of course, the apotheosis here.) And as the one Arab team to make it to this year's world cup, I'm sure the game was closely watched across the Middle East (except for those jihadis who followed this fatwa, which says the World Cup is forbidden: sorry, guys, you're limited to horse races, camel races, and archery, according to this).

I'll admit to not being much of a sports jock at best, and I'm also of a generation for whom soccer was a "foreign" game. But in our region, it often is more than just a game. Obviously, sports in developing countries are a major nation-building, nationalism-reinforcing element, not just a pastime. Can you imagine the US having a Ministry of Sports? Can you imagine a Middle Eastern country without one?

1 comment:

David B Roberts said...

Slightly less 'honneur' was in sight in the post-match 'mix zone' where players, managers and press mingle and have a chat.

According to numerous reports, an Algerian player - Rafik Saifi - walked up to a female Algerian reporter and hit her. She promptly responded in kind. Other reports stated that he then tried to, in English pub vernacular, 'bottle her'. Charming.