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Soccer match creates Arab diplomatic rift

By Reuters Staff
November 20, 2009











In scenes more akin to a prelude to war than a soccer match, Algeria won Africa’s last place in next year’s World Cup finals in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday.

With 15,000 extra security men manning the stadium and heavily armed riot police on virtually every street corner for Algeria’s 1-0 win over Egypt, there was little opportunity for major violence.

Fears of riots in Khartoum spread as some Algerian fans said they were out for revenge after Egyptians stoned their team bus, injuring three players at their previous encounter in Cairo. Twenty Algerians were injured in clashes after that match on Saturday, and the next day Egyptian businesses were ransacked in Algiers.

But the riots never happened and Sudanese police in the stadium were left slightly bewildered by ecstatic Algerian fans blowing them kisses and chanting pro-Sudanese slogans.

There had been only minor scuffles ahead of the match and afterwards a number of buses carrying Egyptian fans were stoned, windows broken and people cut by flying glass as they headed for the airport.

The massive Gad restaurant opposite the airport, draped in Egyptian flags, was invaded after the match by hungry Algerians who ransacked the fridges but attacked no one before Sudanese police threw them out, the manager said.

Khartoum’s major hospitals said they received no injuries or deaths from clashes between fans.

But Egyptian media reports described a very different atmosphere.

Some Egyptian journalists reported near hysterical scenes of their fans under siege by Algerian “militias”, being beaten or stabbed, with armed Algerians chasing Egyptians through the streets and even of deaths.

Khartoum police dismissed the reports. But after some Egyptian media said Sudan had failed to protect its citizens, diplomatic relations between all three countries plummeted.

On Thursday, Egypt recalled its ambassador in Algiers, angered by reports of attacks on Egyptians.

The diplomatic rift split into a chasm after Egyptian ally and match host Sudan summoned Cairo’s ambassador in Khartoum to express a “very strong protest” at Egyptian media reports it said were untrue.

One official said the media was using Sudan as a scapegoat to distract attention from Egypt’s defeat. Egypt had proposed Khartoum as a neutral venue for the decider.

Many fans and Sudanese said they were impressed if somewhat surprised at how organised Khartoum’s security operation was. Fans were bussed out of the stadium at different times and followed separate routes to the airport.

With all the ruckus it was easy to forget about the soccer. The game was rough and technically poor, said fans, but the match was always going to be about emotion rather than technique.

Algerians will now be queueing up for visas to South Africa in the hope that that embassy at least will remain open.


Hi,Regarding the last comment about Algerians queueing up for visas, the South African country decided to lift the visas for Algerian supporters.No visas are needed for Algerians going to the WORLD CUP !:)

Posted by Nasser Eldjama | Report as abusive

It’s very disappointing that a very well known trusted news organization like Reuters doesn’t report the fact fairly and Cleary, what happened in Sudan was not only minor scuffles, it was a barbarian acts by Algerian fans armed with swords and knifes against un armed Egyptian peaceful soccer fans. Please be fair and investigate what actually happened.All Egyptian feels very bad because of the unjust and the clear using of the news power to help the criminals against the victim.

Posted by yasser | Report as abusive

you journalist should get your fact right before even thinking of publishing an article journalism lesson 101!!!as the nasser has mentioned no visa are required for algerians supporters who are willing to make the trip to south africa to cheer for their national team! as for the incidents that took place in cairo you could only imagine how the media are being very subjective, probably influenced by the current regime! egyptians have created this whole scenario and as journalist once again i beg you to be very objective in your approach, for a fact you have omitted to mention that algerian footballers have been injured as well as fans in the process by delirious crowd who had been fed all sorts of propaganda for weeks in regard to algerians!

Posted by salim | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, the political elite in both Algeria and Egypt are not grown-up enough to calm things down.


Hello,Everything is going out of proportion especially from the Egyptian side. You lost, so swallow your pride and move on……But I believe that’s soo hard to do after the loss, Algeria won it deservedly….so long

Posted by ziri | Report as abusive

Hi,I am really one very dissapointed fan. I thought you were fair about relaying the news, what we keep hearing is that it was nothing it is just some minor incidents. Well we haven’t heard about the violence against the Egyptian team in Algeria, we haven’t heard a word about what was done to Egyptian investments after the match, and on top of all we haven’t seen the real truth( where reuters always has the lead with pictures and videos) about what really happened in Sudan.The amazing and fascinating part is that the media around the world is willing to believe three Algerians who calim to be hit by stones.Oh!! these Egyptians must be really really good at aiming because hitting a bus going 40 km/hour in an almost empty street is amazing. And a pretigeous hotel causing damages to its lobby just beacuse a few Algerians are there is amazing. What a wonderful realistic story.On the other hand you are refusing to listen to hundreds of Egyptians who were there in Sudan. There is nothing more to be said, and by the way this is not was not and will not be the last time that Egypt is not in the World cup.

Posted by Doaa | Report as abusive

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