Thursday, June 22, 2006

Utter insanity from Egypt

Others have pointed out the ridiculous, over the top hysteria from the Arab world that accompanied John Pantsil's goal last Saturday when he celebrated by waving an Israeli flag.

One would think that thinking Arabs would sober up after a few days and be able to see the incident in context. Well, one would think that if they knew nothing about Arabs, anyway.

Here is an absurd article in Al-Ahram, dripping with hate for a country that Egypt has a "peace treaty" with, by a presumably educated person. This is not the rantings of a few Muslim bigots in message boards - this is mainstream opinion in Egypt.

Ya gotta laugh:

Was Pantsil that apolitical or was he playing a dangerous and star-crossed game? Gamal Nkrumah searches for clues

Last Saturday, in a packed 45,000-seat Cologne Stadium, the Black Stars' striker Sulley Muntari scored off a penetrating pass from Stephen Appiah, the Ghanaian national team's captain, much to the chagrin of Petr Cech, the brave and gifted Czech goalkeeper who failed to draw another good save.

It was a rocket of a shot that wowed World Cup viewers in Egypt and other Arab countries.

Then came Ghanaian defender John Pantsil's moment.

Egyptian and Arab World Cup viewers were shocked to see Pantsil pull out the Israeli flag from his socks, dampening the enthusiasm of the Egyptian and Arab admirers of the Black Stars.

The next day, columnist Hassan El-Mistikawi, writing in Al-Ahram, explained that Israeli businessmen train poor African children in camps across central and western Africa in a variety of sports. "These children, when they grow up and become professional sportsmen, remain loyal to Israel," he wrote.

Ghana was among the most popular African teams until the 82nd minute into the match when Pantsil let the white and blue Star of David fly loose. The unfortunate incident outraged Arab World Cup viewers. Conspiracy theories abounded. There was much speculation in the Egyptian and Arab media as to whether Pantsil worked for Israeli intelligence, was paid handsomely for his "shameful deed" or was simply a Zionist sympathiser. One Egyptian commentator even referred to Pantsil as an "Israeghanaian" player.

To add insult to injury, the Ghanaian player openly declared his love for Israel to the Israeli media which, of course, ranted and raved about the supposed merit of Pantsil's inexplicable blunder.

"I love your country," John Pantsil enthusiastically disclosed to a group of Israeli journalists after the match in Cologne in which Ghana thrashed the Czech Republic 2-0. "You [Israelis] have done everything for me, and thanks to you I made it to the World Cup. So I wanted to bring you some happiness in return," said the Ghanaian defender who plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The Israeli media had a field day with Pantsil's suspicious slip. He certainly gave the Israelis what they wanted and the Israeli media was on hand to bundle in.

Ghanaian defender Emmanuel Pappoe also plays for Israel's Hapoel Kfar Saba. The Ghanaian national team's goalkeeper Richard Kingston plays for Israel's Ashdod. Ironically, Israel which failed to qualify for the World Cup, has made its mark thanks to Pantsil. Still, we must not forget that at least two Black Stars -- Habib Mohamed and Issa Ahmed -- are Muslim. Ghana is a multi-cultural country, and this is its first World Cup.

The Ghanaian team's credentials are superb; indeed Africa's hope at the World Cup are pinned on their success. They certainly know how to put on a show. The tragedy, however, is that the show was sullied by Pantsil's faux pas.

Another incident which drew the attention of Arab and Muslim Cup viewers was the manner in which another Ghanaian player, John Mensah, brandished a T-shirt with an image of Jesus Christ holding a lamb. For devout Christians, it is a perfectly understandable gesture. But, for those who hail from predominantly Muslim or non-Christian cultures it seemed as a rather odd gesture.

Today, when Ghana faces the United States, there would certainly be no repeat of Pantsil's controversial antics -- not after the GFA pledge that there would be no repeat of Saturday's star- crossed episode. And, we hope that the Black Stars will not let down their Arab fans -- either by being beaten by the US or by flaunting the Israeli flag in their fans faces.

Africa yearns for a much needed fillip, and Ghana is the continent's only genuine hope in Germany. Perhaps with a Ghanaian triumph today Arab Cup viewers would be prepared to

Yes, the article ends in mid-sentence. Perhaps the foam escaping from the author's mouth short-circuited his keyboard.

I also like how Al-Ahram managed to find a picture of the terribly offensive act without having the Star of David visible, presumably so as not to incite riots from its loyal readership.