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Stampede at Cairo Football Match: What Was It and What Does It Mean?

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On Sunday February 8 2014 anywhere between 19 and 28 people were killed in a stampede outside of Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium. This grisly stadium disaster occurred almost three years to the day of another riot in Port Said Stadium on February 1 2012 that killed 72. On that day it was a match between Al Masry and Al Ahly, on Sunday it was Al Ahly’s rivals Zamalek against ENPPI. After the 2012 events the Egyptian Premier League was suspended and no fans were allowed into matches until December of last year. Since then limited numbers of fans have been allowed into matches and just 5,000 tickets where made available in the 30,000 capacity Air Defense Stadium–the Interior Ministry had planned on allowing just 10,000 into the stadium. For me, this raises the obvious question: If some fans can be let in, then why not all? Either allow no fans in…or allow all the fans in. This odd discrepancy signals to me that some members of the state security forces where expecting this.

For now, let us look at the facts. Security officials said that Zamalek fans attempting to enter the stadium without tickets sparked the clashes. As someone who has witnessed first hand small scale crushes at stadium entrances due to ticketless fans this is certainly plausible. The Zamalek fan group “Ultras White Knights” (UWK) announced on their Facebook page that only one small barbed-wire door (about 3.7 meters or 12 feet wide) was opened for them which sparked pushing, leading to the police firing tear gas at the crowds. As someone who has seen first hand the ways that police sometimes orchestrate chaos, this explanation is, also, not out of the question. Following the deaths the Egyptian football League has been suspended indefinitely as the blame game starts.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31252429

“Because of the stampede, some choked and died from asphyxiation, while the rest died from being trampled,” a police official told the state-run newspaper, al-Ahram, according to the BBC. The Ultras White Knights say that birdshot and tear gas were fired, contradicting the emergency services’ statement, but such reports were corroborated by eye-witnesses. The President of the Zamalek club Mortada Mansour “said in an interview with a private TV station that police had not opened fire on the club’s fans, and that the violence was ‘orchestrated’ to undermine the upcoming parliamentary elections.” According to the BBC, Mansour is a supporter of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi who overthrew former President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

The Ultras White Knights and even a Muslim Brotherhood activist who took to Twitter are claiming that the violence was set up, “a planned massacre, premeditated murder and a conspiracy plotted by mean people” according to the UWK Facebook page. Just a groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum came together to express such views, so too did political figures. Leader of the liberal Al-Ghad Party Ayman Nur predicted that no one will be held responsible while the leader of the Islamic Group’s Building and Development Party, Tariq al-Zumur, tweeted that “the massacre” of Zamalek fans “is new evidence for how the gang [in reference to the authorities] allows the shedding of Egyptian blood”. Meanwhile state media outlets such as newspapers Al-Ahram al-Masa’i and Al-Jumhuriyah blamed the ultras for “rioting” and trying to enter the stadium without tickets. The executive editor of Eygpt’s state run Mena news agency went as far as saying that the security forces were “completely innocent”.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31299125

 

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31252429

On Tuesday February 10 it was announced that the families of those who died would be compensated 25,000 Egyptian Pounds (3,280 USD). It was an interesting announcement since the death total is still not confirmed. A Health Ministry spokesman put the number at 19 while the Public Prosecutor’s office put the number at 22. UWK say they have “28 Martyrs”. While the exact numbers are not clear what is clear is that this should never have happened. For me, the fact that only some fans where let in—after the full ban was lifted—in leads me to believe that the state wanted some sort of confrontation in order to justify the harsh measures taken against football fans. We saw it in Turkey, after 2013’s Besiktas-Galatsaray derby, where members of the Besiktas Ultra group Çarşı were effectively framed following an ugly pitch invasion. In any case, it is important to note that this isn’t just your standard “soccer riot”, as US news outlet ESPN reported and that, unfortunately, some of the American readership believed; one even chose to ask why average Americans should like soccer?

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If one wants a standard “soccer riot” they need look no further than the scenes at the Africa Cup of Nations Semi Final match between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea. The host country’s fans started throwing foreign objects at their Ghanaian counterparts out of frustration at losing 3-0. Of course, there was some politics involved in that as well—after their quarterfinal exit at the hands of the hosts Tunisian officials accused the referee of bias, but, in my mind, this was still just disgruntled fans unable to stomach defeat on home soil.

Of course it is not all doom and gloom in Middle Eastern and North African football. It is worth noting that the January 23 Asian Cup match between bitter geopolitical rivals Iran and Iraq went off without a hitch, with Iraq winning on penalties 7-6 in a thriller that will certainly go down in history for all of the right reasons. Much is to be said for such a high profile match ending without issue—just recall the chaotic scenes from the Serbia-Albania European Championship qualifier from last October.

For more on Egyptian football and its political implications please see Professor James Dorsey’s blog here.

Top Five World Cup 2014 Shirts and Top Five Classic World Cup Shirts

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Although I am not a huge World Cup fan since the tournament has become the definition of industrial football and mainly a cynical money making machine in recent years, I still can’t ignore the shirts. With the games in full swing I thought I would do what some sites have been doing and rank the top five shirts from World Cup 2014, along with the top five from the past World Cups that I have watched. As with everything on this blog all opinions are my own, so don’t be offended if your favorite shirt—or team—does not make an appearance. Personally, it is always hard to rank the newer shirts because the old ones hold a special place in my heart but here goes nothing.

 

World Cup 2014:

Number 5: Japan (Adidas)

Japan 2014 World Cup Home Kit (1) Japan 2014 World Cup Home Kit (2)

Japan 2014 World CUp Away Kit 4 Japan 2014 World CUp Away Kit 5

Images Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/06/exclusive-japan-13-14-2013-2014-2014.html

 

The “electricity” colored away shirt obviously needs no explanation, but the blue home shirt has a few details that make it, in my opinion, one of the best shirts of the 2014 World Cup. The rising sun motif around the badge is special, giving a sort of Japanese authenticity to the shirt. On the back, however, is a pink stripe that gives this jersey a unique detail that—when seen in person—really gets your attention. Adidas did a nice job with the socks as well, carrying that color through the kit instead of leaving it as a one-off detail on the shirt. It also harkens back to the red used in Japan’s 1995-96 kit, manufactured by Asics.

 

Numbers 4 and 4.5: Cameroon Home (Puma)

Cameroon 2014 World Cup Home Kit

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/10/unique-cameroon-2014-home-and-away-kits.html

Ghana Away (Puma)

Ghana 2014 World Cup Away Kit 1

Images Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/11/ghana-2014-world-cup-home-kit-leaked.html

 

This is really a tie, and I chose to include both because each team’s other jersey (Cameroon Away and Ghana Home) are too light colored to see any of the details which make the darker colored shirts so special. Apparently the design on the Cameroon shirt is taken from cave paintings, with “Les Lions Indomptables” written across each line. This comes from the team’s nickname, “The Indomitable Lions”.

Ghana’s away shirt is a similar design, this one with Ghana’s nickname “The Black Stars”. The sleeve details are also good looking—while not being as eye-catching as the Kente design on the home shirt, the dark red is just too nice of a color to be ignored. I might still prefer Ghana’s 2012-13 kit (the fade is something I enjoy in shirts) but this year’s is still a unique piece produced for Ghana, and that is worth something in itself.

 

Number 3: Belgium (Burrda Sports)

Belgium 2014 World Cup Home Kit Belgium 2014 World Cup Away Kit Belgium 2014 World Cup Third Kit

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2014/02/burrda-belgium-2014-world-cup-kits-jerseys.html

 

This is the only shirt in this World Cup manufactured by the Swiss/Qatari company Burrda Sports—perhaps they’re getting ready for 2022? All three of these shirts carry elements of the Belgian flag, with the black away version the best looking in my opinion with the red and yellow sash across the chest. Belgium are being picked by many as a dark horse; while the outcome of their World Cup campaign may be uncertain one thing is certain—they’ll look good, win or lose.

 

Number 2: Germany (Adidas)

Germany 2014 Home kit Adilite 1 Germany 2014 World Cup Away Kit (1)

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/05/germany-1314-2013-2014-world-cup-home.html

 

Germany’s white home shirt has a “V” design around the neck, which doesn’t represent too much of a change from their jerseys in previous years. The away shirt, however, represents a completely new move for “Die Nationalmannschaft”. Even if the red and black hoops and collar buttons make this shirt reminiscent of a rugby shirt I still found it extremely attractive when I saw it in person. In 2006 Germany moved to the black and red color scheme for their away shirts before moving to black for the 2010 World Cup. I think this represents the best Germany away shirt since they moved away from their classic emerald green kits (the Irish-looking green of Euro 2012 doesn’t count for me).

 

Number 1: Russia (Adidas)

 

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/11/russia-2014-world-cup-home-kit-leaked.html

Russia 2014 World Cup Away Kit (1)

For me, Russia’s away shirt is without a doubt the best jersey in the 2014 World Cup, and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. Just below the collar is a view of the earth from space which then fades into white. Of course, this is in memory of the Soviet space program and Yuri Gagarin—the first human being in space. This shirt, of course, has a political connotation as well considering recent developments in Russia. As Putin looks to re-assert Russia’s strength in the modern era, this shirt advertising the greatness of Russia’s past on the world stage makes a bold nationalist statement. It will be interesting to see if this shirt starts a trend of countries visually representing their histories on football shirts—football shirt nationalism by using elements of The Modern Janus Theory (made famous by Tom Nairn).

 

 

Classic World Cups:

Number 5: Nigeria World Cup 1994 (Adidas)

Nigeria Home and Away Kits World Cup 1994

Image Courtesy of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com.tr/2011/10/nigeria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

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Dancin’ the night away–in pajamas?!

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footballfoundout.com/top-five-worst-world-cup-shirts-ever/

I have no idea what this design is but it is definitely unique. Perhaps this was the beginning of the trend of providing special designs for African teams that we see now, since I have never seen this design used in any other team’s shirt. The white version looks a little pyjama-esque (hence its ranking as the ugliest World Cup shirt in history on one of the above lists) but, for my money, its still an unforgettable shirt. And that is what I look for.

 

Number 4: Croatia World Cup 1998 (Lotto)

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.croatiaweek.com/tag/brazil/page/3/

 

This shirt really needs no introduction as it is a piece of history, one of many legendary designs worn by Croatia since 1996. What makes this shirt special is the fact that just half the shirt is checkered. No one will forget Croatia’s historic run to third place while wearing this shirt, fueled by legends Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki, and Zvonimir Boban (whose kick, some say, started a war). I’m counting on Bosnia-Herzegovina to make a similar run in this World Cup, even if their shirts aren’t quite as special.

 

Number 3: Mexico World Cup 1998 (Aba Sport)

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Luis Hernandez makes another World Cup disappointent look good

Image Courtesy Of: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1936489-mexicos-best-and-worst-world-cup-jerseys/page/4

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.oldfootballshirts.com/en/teams/m/mexico/old-mexico-football-shirt-s3660.html

 

A few lists, including the one at the link above, have cited this shirt as one of the best World Cup shirts of all time and for good reason. This shirt is in Mexico’s classic shade of green with an interesting detail unique to Mexico: printed into the fabric is a design of the Aztec calendar. While this year’s Mexico design by Adidas is among the better designs on display this summer, I still think that nothing can come close to the France ’98 kit.

 

Number 2: USA World Cup 1994 (Adidas):

US national team defender Alexi Lalas jumps in the Roy Wegerle

Alexei Lalas jumps for joy at World Cup ’94, Roy Wegerle isn’t sure what to make of his kits

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_spot/2014/05/19/u_s_soccer_denim_kit_the_horrifying_true_story_of_the_ugliest_jerseys_in.html

 

This shirt has been derided by so many that it feels funny posting it as the number two best shirt—please see articles at Mashable.com and Slate.com for more on this shirt (albeit from a negative angle). Personally, I do not see why this shirt has so many critics–as you can see above, Alexi Lalas seems more than enthused to be wearing the shirt (!) even if Roy Wegerle gives us a more bemused expression.

The point of a football shirt, in my opinion, is to represent a country in a unique and instantly recognizable way. For me, that is exactly what the United State’s 1994 kit did. The denim look was certainly unprecedented, and it is true that it bore no relation to anything Adidas had—or has since—produced. But it was unique. In fact, it was uniquely American. As a kid watching the 1994 World Cup in I didn’t even notice the denim factor—I just thought it was a blue background with white stars, a representation of the national flag, which is fine. And for those critics of this shirt, I’d like to point out that if a USA shirt need be criticized the USA away shirt for the 2014 World Cup (a shirt I myself own) looks more French than it does American.

I would like to think that like a fine wine, football shirts also get better as the years go by. That sentiment is confirmed for me by the number one shirt on this list . . .

 

Number 1: Germany World Cup 1998 (Adidas)

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Image Courtesy of: http://37.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lwcb1unOX11r6mwuno1_1280.jpg

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Klinsmann et al make bracing for impact look good . . . or at least half-way decent

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/worldcup2010/article-1282545/John-Motson-Ten-greatest-World-Cup-games.html

And now we come to the shirt that—I think—is hands down the best shirt in World Cup history. If Helen of Troy’s face is the one that launched a thousand ships, then this is—undoubtedly—the design that launched a thousand kits. After Germany made this Adidas “basket weave” pattern famous the design became a staple for Adidas kits around the world between 1995 and 1996. The reason this kit in particular is so stunning is that the bold colors of the German flag really jump off the shirt’s white background and right into the viewer’s eyes. Adidas really did their country justice with this well designed shirt, a shirt that hasn’t lost any of its luster twenty years on.