12 May 2015
Egypt’s deeply polarising divide between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, following the 2013 military coup that toppled president Mohammed Morsi. Mohammed Abu Trika, Egypt’s most celebrated and storied football player, is proving to be either the exception that proves the rule or an indication of shifting attitudes, amid an uproar after authorities froze his company assets on suspicion of funding the Brotherhood.
Breaking the mould was always part of Abu Trika’s trademark. He was revered for having been declared African footballer of the year four times and having been instrumental in securing storied Cairo club Al-Ahli SC’s multiple African and Egyptian titles, as well as many of the Egyptian national team’s trophies despite controversy over his refusal to hide his Islamist and pro-Palestinian inclinations and support for Ultras Ahlawy, the militant, highly politicised Al-Ahli support group that played a key role in the 2011 popular uprising and subsequent anti-government protests.
The outpouring of support following the freezing of the assets of a travel agency that he owns, demonstrates not only Abu Trika’s continued popularity since his retirement in 2013, but also his ability to rise above Egypt’s deep-seated fault lines. Among those who spoke out in favour of Abu Trika were many of his fellow players, a group that has historically been careful to remain on the political side lines, and was glaringly absent during the popular revolt that toppled President Mohammed Mubarak in 2011 and the mass protests that led to the overthrow of Morsi in 2013.
… James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 12/05/2015