The following are excerpts from a TV debate between Egyptian Ambassador Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi1 and Michael Meunier, president of the U.S Copts Association, on Egyptian-Algerian soccer rivalry. The debate aired on Dream2 TV, on November 26, 2009.
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: The truth is that there is a plot to break the entire Arab world into crumbs. It began when Israel and global Zionism felt that Iraq and Iran, after 1973, were armed to the teeth. Therefore, Kissinger was behind pitting Iraq and Iran against one another, and behind the war that lasted eight years, in order to destroy these two powers, so that they would not pose a danger to Israel. This is continuing to this day.
Interviewer: Do you think this has anything to do with the Egypt-Algeria soccer match and with fanaticism in sports?
Ahmed Al-Ghamrawi: Yes sir. Fanaticism in sports is just like political party fanaticism. Our governments have turned their backs on the political parties – and there is no democracy in the Arab world – and so they keep the masses preoccupied with soccer and whatnot, in order to create a new kind of "parties" to absorb the energy of the people. The disagreements that were sowed in Lebanon, and attempt to break Lebanon into crumbs, one way or another, and the similar attempt to break Sudan into crumbs, one way or the other, and the breaking of Yemen into crumbs today… It can be said that only two powerful countries remain on the scene – Egypt and Algeria.
Interviewer: Egypt and Algeria are the two powerful countries in the Arab world today?
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: Yes. Therefore, it is in [the enemies'] interest to repeat what happened between Iran and Iraq. I am telling you this because I served as ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, and I witnessed the tragedy caused by the US intelligence, by global Zionism, and especially Kissinger, who was personal advisor to President Bush. He would go to him and get the bills paid. The issue is much bigger than is apparent. The issue is a conspiracy to break the region up into crumbs. What happened is an attempt to sow discord between Egypt and Algeria, despite the love and esteem harbored by the Egyptian people toward Algeria, and the love and esteem harbored by most of the Algerian people toward Egypt.
Let's consider what happened on the day of the match itself. On that very day, Israel announced the establishment of the largest new settlement in Jerusalem. While Jerusalem is being plundered, we were cheering at a soccer match. At the very same time! The entire world is uniting…
Interviewer: Ambassador, this soccer match brings out our loyalty. Did you see how the Egyptians united…Did you see [the Egyptian fans] clasping the Egyptian flag, holding onto it, and being willing to die for it?
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: What good does this do us? This is being done for the sake of the end result, not the cheering itself. What is the outcome of this cheering? What does the people gain from it, except for the Algerian and Egyptian peoples attacking one another?
Interviewer: You believe that this is a Zionist conspiracy…
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: A Zionist Western conspiracy.
Interviewer: And the Arab governments benefit from this?
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: Let me tell you another thing. Nations are trying to unite, yet we Arabs are deepening the rift. That very day, 27 European countries announced the election of a prime minister [sic], and they elected a foreign minister… a president. At the same time, in East Africa, all of East Africa announced – on the day of the match, ironically – that a union of these countries would be established, and that there would be freedom of movement and trade between them. East Africa is becoming united, Europe is becoming united, yet we Arabs are becoming divided. Tell me, should we laugh or cry? We cheer in the streets, and use our media, and use resources worth millions – for what? It would be better to spend those millions on the poor and their interests, in order to clean up Cairo, which was abandoned without being cleaned, in order to build Algeria, which needs every penny in order to help the poor, because its poverty rate is high despite all the oil.
The ambassador believes that the attack on the Egyptians by some fanatic Algerian fans in Sudan, is a conspiracy – first of all, a Zionist conspiracy, and secondly, Arab governments benefit from this fanaticism, which diverts the attention of the masses away from the fundamental problems.
Michael Meunier: I agree with some of the things the ambassador said, such as the political exploitation of soccer, and I might add religious exploitation of soccer, as well. To a certain extent, we have turned soccer into a religion. But I completely disagree with him that this is a Zionist conspiracy. Both you and I have been in Sudan, and we have not seen any Israelis or US army there…
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: If you could see them, it would mean they weren't doing their job properly…
Michael Meunier: The honor of the entire Egyptian people was trampled in Sudan, because of Arab unity and pan-Arabism, which we have glorified for years. Egyptians suffer humiliation in Arab countries alone. Show me one foreign country where Egyptians suffer humiliation, like they suffer in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, in Algeria, in any…What is the reason for this? Our governments. Egyptians suffer humiliation first and foremost in Egypt. If the Egyptian people respects itself, if the Egyptian government and police officers respect the Egyptian people, the world will respect the Egyptian people.
I'd like to say to the ambassador that the first thing we need to do is to learn a lesson from what happened in Sudan, and to increase the honor of the Egyptian people. The first thing we need to do is to stop constantly pointing the finger at Zionism, the Zionists, the Americans, and the various enemies. We need to examine our own [conduct] to examine our Egyptian character, in order to understand how we reached this situation, with citizens suffering humiliation, and degradation in their own country.
Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi: Didn't the Israelis bury Egyptian [soldiers] alive, telling them to dig their own graves? Should we switch from the conflict with Israel to a conflict with Algeria? Should we be fighting the Arabs, rather than Israel, with which we have a history…
Michael Meunier: Mr. Ambassador, we don't want to be fighting Israel or the Arabs. We want to create a situation in which Egyptians have honor, both within their country and outside it. If Israel wanted… Let me tell you something – if this match had taken place in Israel, not even 5% of what happened would have occurred. If Israel had lost a match against us there, I don't believe they would have done to us what the Algerians did.
1 Ahmad Al-Ghamrawi, who served as ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay, heads the Egypt-Iran Friendship Society.