By Nasry Esmat
For Millions of Bayern Munich fans, 23rd of May 2001 was a tremendous night celebrating their 4th European champions league title but for the Egyptian loyal fan Shady Amir this day was the reason he wanted to immigrate to Germany.
“After the 2001 game I decided to leave my country and travel to Germany to live in Munich”, said Amir who was a student in faculty of engineering in Cairo University back at that time.
Amir, 28, who works now as a communications engineer will watch Bayern’s clash with Inter Milan in the Champions league final in Cairo next Saturday just as millions of football fans in North Africa and the Middle East who consider football as the main source of information they have about Europe.
“After Bayern’s goal keeper saved the last penalty kick, I kept screaming victory chants till my mother begged me to stop because the neighbors were in their balconies trying to understand what was happening”, added Amir speaking to EMAJ Magazine.
The game inspired the Egyptian fan to visit Goethe Institute in Cairo wearing FC Bayern official t-shirt with couple of his friends in order to learn German language where he studied for 2 years starting from the beginner’s level and paying more than 450 Euros which is much money for a university student.
As result of his German language courses Amir worked as a freelance journalist in different websites relying heavily on his ability to translate articles and news published in German media, after years of dreaming to immigrate to Germany he changed his plans to only making a visit for training or tourism after he had a stable job in Cairo.
Amir’s obsession with his German club is still the same as it was nine years ago, the first thing he said before talking to EMAJ Magazine was “what result do you expect for Saturday’s final?”.
The Egyptian engineer is optimistic after meeting a Cairo taxi driver who expected Bayern to defeat Inter Milan Italy’s Champion without knowing that Amir is a supporter.
Amir’s case represents real phenomena in the Middle East in the last 10 years especially after the internet boom that opened the door for Arab fans to build websites and forums and use social media tools as Youtube and facebook to gather and support their favorite European football clubs.
Europe’s top clubs championship is not just important for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich fans only but for all football fans.
Chats and discussions on FilGoal.com, Egypt’s first sports website, showed that Milan and Juventus fans are supporting Bayern in order to prevent their Italian rivals from adding a title to their domestic league and cup titles this season, on the other hand Manchester United fans wants Inter to win as they think the German giant was so lucky to eliminate their team from the quarter finals.
Rivalries between teams and the bad blood between fans exist in MENA region the same way as it is in Europe.
A quick view on Arab forums and websites can show names of users containing their favorite teams nicknames, they can be Italian as “Rossoneri” or “Bianconeri” or may be Spanish as “Blancos” Or “Catalan”, while English names like “Red Devils” or “Blues” are very popular, while Kooora.com, the most popular Arab football website gets over 3,000 user generated article per day before the European final in Madrid.
The European influence on the Egyptian supporters is not limited online but also it broke out 5 years ago into real life when Egyptian fans established their first Ultras groups supporting their biggest Egyptian clubs as Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaili clubs.
“In Europe they have great stadiums and play attractive football, this is why we took their Ultras tradition converting it into something local”, said Mina Hares who didn’t forget to emphasize that Zamalek supporters were the first to import this tradition.
As a result of Ultras groups establishment, clashes between fans and violence increased in Egyptian football in the last 3 years, Egyptian police caught not less than 200 supporters in different occasions in absence of laws against hooliganism.
Egyptian critic and director Khaled Ahmed Youssef believes that Egyptian authorities are not taking Ultras groups seriously enough.
“Europe learned the lesson from Heysel stadium disaster in 1985 while a similar disaster is expected in Egypt in the next 2 years”, Youssef told EMAJ magazine from Madrid.
Egyptian Ultras gave life to football stadiums with their creative intros and huge banners and 90 minutes chants to gain support from their clubs and important figures in media and society.
“We are in our way to create new Holigans”, Youssef added.
The Egyptian critic believes that satellite channels allowed Egyptian fans as most fans in the Middle East to watch European football on daily basis instead of watching 2 European cups finals as it used to be 25 years ago.
Teach me Catalan
Youssef was witness on online clashes between Arabs supporting Real Madrid and Barcelona, he usually gets e-mails and phone calls from his friends asking him to translate Spanish texts into Arabic in order to be used against other supporters.
“Barcelona’s Arab supporters usually say (Viva Catalonia) which means they imported a local Spanish culture and a political attitude without even being aware of the whole subject”said the Egyptian writer.
“why an Egyptian young man would call me from Egypt to learn some Catalan words that he will never use in daily life?”, Youssef added.
The Egyptian writer who lived in Madrid the last five years believes that European football promotes the idea of immigration and land of dreams.
“Most young people in the Middle East think that Spanish people are only Real Madrid or Barcelona fans and everything is very organized and beautiful just as another La Liga game” said Youssef.
Watch Egyptian fans