A politicized World Cup: How will Egyptians watch their beloved sport?

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Sat, 10 Mar 2018 - 12:52 GMT

Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Logo of FIFA World Cup 2018 (C), Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani (R) - Photo compiled by Lolwa Reda

Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Logo of FIFA World Cup 2018 (C), Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani (R) - Photo compiled by Lolwa Reda

CAIRO – 10 March 2018: Twenty-eight years of absence from the World Cup left Egyptians itching for a chance to support their national football team in the world’s most important football tournament. Now, fans are in a pickle: they are forced to choose between watching the World Cup on an Israeli channel free of charge, or having to pay the average 15-day pay to watch the match on the Qatari BeIN Sport.

The choice has left most football fans in a real fix. Qatar and Israel are the only two countries in the region who have bought the right to air the World Cup.

The latter choice may seem like the more appropriate choice, until one remembers that BeIN is owned by al-Jazeera, the Qatari channel that has continued to air negative, and sometimes untrue, reports on Egypt. The channel, which many Egyptian TV hosts and journalists believe is biased towards Egypt, has been said to support the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that was ousted from office via the June 2013 Revolution.

A celebration of Egyptian success and football skills has clearly tuned political with many suggesting that paying to BeIN would be, at least, in a way, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, as BeIN is sympathetic towards the ousted group.

Speaking to a number of fans on the issue, some revealed that BeIN sports may support the Muslim Brotherhood but that it is not owned by the group, therefore, they do not mind paying for the subscription. Others, on the other hand, highlighted the fact that paying to BeIN sports would give them more money to continue to air biased information regarding Egypt. There seems to be no consensus on the issue.

A rather interesting reply came from a man in his forties. Sitting on a chair with his coffee, the man said, “It is football. I will watch it wherever it is aired. We are against Qatar as a state, we do not agree with the Muslim Brotherhood, but this is football. Our national team has finally made it to the World Cup. For me, it is not political. We want our interest, we want Egyptian channels to have broadcasting rights but if worse comes to worst, I will watch it anywhere.”

A bit later, though, the man, who asked for his name to be anonymized said, “Between the two, I would watch it on the Israeli channel.” An interesting view, one that demands much analysis.

For objectors of BeIN, the only other option is the Israeli channel.

The page ‘Israel Speaks Arabic’ announced recently that it will be broadcasting the World Cup in Arabic to its neighboring countries free of charge. These countries, they said, include Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.

The page revealed that the broadcasting will be on Makan TV channel, which will broadcast the matches via satellite, with Arabic analysis of the matches. The announcement provoked anger amongst citizens, as well as many Members of Parliament, who spoke out against watching the matches on the Israeli channel, warning the free broadcasting offered by Israel is simply another Zionist attempt to impose the normalization of Israel as a state. The channel, multiple members claimed, will aim to impose Zionist ideas and position Arabs’ minds with normalization ideas.

Member of Parliament, Mostafa Bakry, commented on the announcement, saying that this is merely an attempt by the Zionist country to utilize, what he labelled as, soft power to influence Egyptians to accept the Israeli state as it is. It is an attempt by Israel, Bakry revealed, to normalize the state of Israel and to make Egyptians like it.

FILE - Mostafa Bakry, Member of Parliament
FILE - Mostafa Bakry, Member of Parliament


Bakry, importantly, said that the Egyptian and Arab mind is immune to those tricks and will not fall for their attempts, but he believed that it is important to warn Egyptians and Arabs about this sly attempt by Zionists.

These pressures and attempts, Bakry stressed, would not lead Egyptians or Arabs to rid their minds of the idea that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and that they are oppressing the Palestinian people.

Bakry further told Egypt Today, “I hope Arab channels will unite to buy broadcast rights [for the 2018 World Cup] so that Arabs can watch the matches through their national channels and so that they will not be forced to watch them anywhere else.”

In similar vein, Nashwa al-Deeb, a Member of Parliament, warns against this problematic move from Israel, “The enemy [Zionist Israel] is very smart in their move to influence and spread their ideas across the Arab world. However, I bet on the intelligence of the Arab people, who, I am sure, realize that between them and Israel, there is much blood. They will not be affected by their [Israel’s] attempt to influence them [Arabs]. No matter how hard Israel tries to act like they are pure or loving towards their neighbors, the facts will remain the same.”

FILE - Nashwa al-Deeb, Member of Parliament
FILE - Nashwa al-Deeb, Member of Parliament.


Deeb added, “Football matches will not erase the memory of the rivers of blood or the many martyrs who have paid their lives fighting against the Zionists from Arab minds.”

Deeb also pointed out that the position of Israel is supported by Qatar, who has also boughg the rights of broadcasting. “Qatar has sold itself to the enemy. Here we have to be careful to mention that we are not talking about the Qatari people, whom we have all the appreciation and love for, we are talking about the Administration.”

“An administration that has linked arms with the enemy of the whole Arab world,” Deeb’s words ring loud and clear. Football fans are really in a pickle.

Deeb also asked Egyptian and Arab channels to confront and stand in the face of any ideas that may be broadcasted by Israel during the matches in an attempt to influence Arabs. Channels should respond to these attempts, show the true colors of the Israeli state and uphold the image of the enemy in the Arab mind, stressed Deeb.

Fortunately, Member of Parliament Yasser Omar, Deputy of the House of Representatives Budget and Budget Committee, responded to these concerns by confirming that Arab national channels will buy the right of broadcasting for the 2018 World Cup to stop Israel from poising Arab minds with its propaganda and normalization attempts. Omar affirmed strongly, “Watching the World Cup matches on Israeli television channels will remain unacceptable.”

FILE - Yasser Omar, Member of Parliament
FILE - Yasser Omar, Member of Parliament


Thus, it is all set. Egyptians will not have to face the difficult choice between watching on Israeli channels or on Qatari channels. Instead, Arab channels will be able to broadcast on their own national channels the World Cup matches.

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