Sunday, November 15, 2009
"The best thing about attending the game at the stadium was when people chanted ‘Kaas El A’alam’ just a minute before the goal"- Ahmed ElShentenawy, an Egyptian who flew in from Kuwait to watch the game.
We’re alive, that’s what the game said in the end, we’re not dead yet. We’ve had to battle hard for a chance to live, we’ve had to wait till the forth watch before finding our salvation, but we’re alive. Despite our slim chances of survival and our poor history with the world cup we’re alive. Despite how everything around us is set up to kill us, we’re alive. That’s the message of the game, we’re not dead yet. The 14th of November of 2009 gave us a chance to say that in our game against Algiers that ended with a 2-Nil victory that gives us another chance to enter the world cup.
We live in country that has set us up for failure in everything we do. The talented don’t get their chance to be all they can be, the money goes to the wrong places and pockets and no one really cares about people’s quality of life, or their hopes and dreams and aspirations. We’re in a country that’s been abused for so long and with everything that’s happening, it’s dying a slow and painful death. The word ‘Masr’ or Egypt has been since some time back used in a negative manner. It has come to denote a place you want to leave, you want to get out of, you want to be disassociated with. The only mention of patriotism is fabricated through cheap drama writers who are induced to do so by an oppressive government as propaganda.
Our ancient pharaonic symbols have all been over-used and have long been anchored to mediocrity. The flag with its colors has become depressing to look at, depressing to salute, obligatory in schools as another form of oppression inflicted on us by a tyrannical government. Our hopes are dying and our culture is dying and our dignity is dying. We’re fading away, silently into a darkness, worn down, run into the ground.
But then comes something of a phenomenon, football. It strikes me as odd that this may quite well be the only thing Egyptians have in common, that is the one thing for which we will stand shoulder to shoulder. It’s slightly sad that this may be the only thing we have left and yet with all the sadness of this realization, it’s hopeful that we still have that. We have one thing that brings us together. That is why even though I don’t believe that a football match should be treated with this much excitement, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with people and will get excited and will be part of the whole. Even if you don’t watch or like or care about football, you should stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellows. Don’t you understand? This might be the only thing we have left with one another.
This game mandated by an international body FIFA has fix what the local government has broken, pride in a country. It has given meaning to the word ‘Masr’.. Egypt.. chanted willingly by the people who have been most abused by it. The flags voluntarily hung up everywhere a symbol of a revived faith in a seemingly lost and dying cause. We’re being told by the world that we’re the pharaohs and we don’t seem to mind it now.
We’re in search of hope. We’re in search of hope in something greater than a football match. We’re in search of hope of a common cause, of some kind of collective victory in some kind of salvation from the darkness we’re plummeting into. We are trying to answer a question of whether after all our failures we had hope to survive. We failed in Egypt to beat Zambia and that was the failure we were trying to overcome in this game. It is a bit symbolic of all our failures and this match was to ask if we could overcome our history of failures.
The way people have said ‘Masr’ over the past few days could almost move a mountain. The faith and conviction was beyond words, carried stealthily with the word ‘Masr’ and sent out as so much energy. That’s how we scored twice, each time through this energy and this faith.
At the start of the game, the atmosphere was electric, it was phenomenal, and with all this energy from faith and hope, it drove the ball into the net. It wasn’t Sakka or Treka or Zidan or even Zaki that drove it in, it was that momentous energy. ‘Please God, let us win,’ said everyone in his heart and out loud. Even those who don’t believe in God said that to the energies that be. Let us not die today, give us hope in a future that is seemingly hopeless. We can’t afford to lose hope, not till the final whistle, we have to go down fighting at least.
I had to struggle with myself to keep that hope alive, till the very last second. Do I just accept defeat and spare myself the agony or do I keep fighting even within myself, for keeping faith consumes a lot of energy, it’s not as simple or as easy as giving up or losing faith. I decided not to let go of hope and kept it till the very last second, but I wasn’t the only one. I don’t know how difficult it was for others to keep that hope for a country that is almost destined to lose, that in fact has done so consistently over the years. I don’t know how they all got the energy to do that, while I, considering myself a person full of strength, struggled so damn hard with it. But they did, amidst all the darkness and the hopelessness they did.
In the very final minutes, where most would have been content to leave and say, ‘Forget about this whole damn country, it’s not worth a shit’, when people could have said, ‘It’s the same way always, nothing will ever change’, when people could have thrown the towel in and accepted their failure and their fate, they hung in there. They hung in there just like they have been hanging in there after our life line in Zambia when we scored a goal in a very difficult match; just like they have hung on to the hope before the match with our very slim chance of making that two goal win; just like they stopped criticizing and attacking our players and our coach and keeping the faith in them despite their near impossible mission.
A minute before the goal, the entire stadium chanted ‘Kaas El A’alam’ (The World Cup). In unison they chanted as a reminder to all the players playing on the court that this was our dream, that this is what they were fighting for till the last minute, that these were the last minutes and that victory could be at hand, that we could still play on as long as it wasn’t over, as long as we had a chance to live. How they could have fought with all their might to keep that faith is slightly incomprehensible for we are not the breed of fighters that fights till the end. We’re quick to lose hope and we have a long history to back it up and explain it.
‘Kaas El A’alam’, they chanted, taking every bit of energy to keep up the faith, to believe in the possibility of change. The players, reminded of a dream that has been almost forgotten in the entirety of the second half, rose up again. We have a dream to be part of the world, to compete, to understand that we can live. It was these chants that pushed the ball in, we’re not completely dead, against all odds, we’re alive. Those who were in the stadium were moved by the words before being moved by the goal. They were there, all of them, to remind those who were in a position to give us some sort of life that they should do their best till the very end. They were there to demand of our representatives that they not forget about us and our dreams which should be their dream too. They were there to remind the few who had the power that they were playing for us all, and the few who were in the stadium knew very well that they chanted this not just for the players, but for the 80 million others who were not able to fit in the stadium.
There are far too many emotions to describe but the temporary verdict of this match is that we’re alive. We live to fight another day. I say this before the final match that really determines if our dreams come true because it’s relevant whether we win or lose. We were given a victory out of almost nowhere at the fourth watch and I can't but be thankful. We might lose the next match and not realize our dream, but we’ve conquered the odds nevertheless. If only we can extend this to the next match, and not just our next football match, but our next fight for a better us.
Those that don’t choose to share the value of the word ‘Masr’ on this occasion, miss out on the one thing that currently brings us together. I know it’s not much, it’s a game, it’s a sport, it doesn’t give us much and I understand that there are too many more important impending issues at hand to be concerned with a game, but still, I’d rather have this than nothing at all. I will scream and shout and cry not just for the game, but for the chance to hope and fight and win, and to be able to say we’re alive.