Aboutrika Punished For “Sympathize With Gaza” Shirt, Double Standards?
The tragic events in Gaza Strip echoed in the soccer fields in Ghana, which hosts the 2008 African Cup of Nations tournament, when Egyptian player Mohamed Aboutrika wore a tee shirt reading “sympathize with Gaza” in arabic and English. Aboutrika flashed the shirt after he scored his first goal in veiw of cameras and millions of spectators throughout the world which prompted the referee to slap him with yellow warning card for violating the FIFA rules which prohibit religious and political slogans during the games, although this phrase is more humanitarian than political.
Meanwhile, Aboutrika’s action drew huge public support which sympathized with the player. Arabic websites were flooded with messages of support and condemnation of the referee’s decision to punish Aboutrika.
The public was legitimately asking why Aboutrika was accused of politicizing the soccer game by simply wearing a shirt carrying a humanitarian message while Ghanian soccer player John Pentsil was not punished when he waved an Israeli flag to celebrate a goal his teammates scored against Czech Republic in the 2006 World Cup, although Israel had nothing to do with the game and did not even qualify for the tournament.
For his part, Hadi Khashaba, a former player and currently a football coordinator at Al Ahly Sports Club, confirmed to Ikhwanweb that what Aboutrika did is a mere humanitarian action which has no relation with politics. He said that the player tried through this symbolic action to express his feelings for the besieged Palestinians in Gaza . He also wanted to send another message, that soccer players especially Egyptians are connected to the issues taking place around them.
Khashaba also confirmed that what Aboutrika did is a minimum of what any member of the Egyptian soccer team can offer to the Palestinian cause and to support the people of Gaza and contribute to ending the tight blockade imposed by Israeli Occupation Forces.
Shawqi Gharib, the assistant coach of the Egyptian soccer team said that the organizing committee informed all teams that they shouldn”t wear any shirts bearing any political slogans. Saturday”s match ended with an Egyptian win over Sudans 3-0 to give the Egyptian team a lead in its group and to inch closer to qualifying for the second round of the finals of the African Cup of Nations.