North Africa’s escalating soccer war

The France-Ireland dispute over Thierry Henry’s handball is getting all the international press, but the three-way diplomatic dispute between Egypt, Algeria, and Sudan over violence at a recent World Cup qualifying match looks more serious: Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Algeria after World Cup qualifying football matches between the two countries resulted in a ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
576432_091120_soccer2.jpg
576432_091120_soccer2.jpg
Egyptians burn an Algerian flag while hundreds gathered for the second day in a row to protest near the Algerian embassy in Cairo on November 20, 2009, as anger mounted over attacks on Egyptians after the countries' World Cup qualifier. The Egyptian interior ministry said 11 officers were hurt and 15 cars were damaged in the violence. The demonstrators were enraged by reports of attacks against Egyptian fans in Khartoum on November 18 after a World Cup qualification decider with Algeria, and demanded the expulsion of the Algerian ambassador. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)

The France-Ireland dispute over Thierry Henry’s handball is getting all the international press, but the three-way diplomatic dispute between Egypt, Algeria, and Sudan over violence at a recent World Cup qualifying match looks more serious:

Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Algeria after World Cup qualifying football matches between the two countries resulted in a number of outbreaks of violence..

Egypt says a number of its fans who travelled to Sudan for a match on Wednesday to decide which of the sides would go to next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa were assaulted by Algerians.

Algeria beat Egypt 1-0 with local police saying that there was little violence due to the massive security operation mounted.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Khartoum to complain about the insinuation that Sudanese security personnel were to blame for the violence. Egyptian authorities claim that Algerian fans throwing rocks wounded 21 Egyptian fans. This was in retaliation for an earlier game in Cairo in which Algerian players were wounded by Egyptian fans throwing rocks at their bus. 

Some are comparing the dispute to the famous 1969 “football war” fought between El Salvador and Honduras. That’s probably a stretch — relations between Egypt and Algeria are, for the most part, pretty good — but here’s hoping that this dispute, and the Henry spat, aren’t a preview of what to expect in South Africa this summer. 

Hat tip: Nightwatch

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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