No Christians Here: Are Egyptian Football Players Facing Religious Discrimination?

Published June 24th, 2018 - 12:55 GMT
Egypt's well-known player, Mohammed Salah who plays for UK-based Liverpool Club and the Egyptians National Team. (AFP/File Photo)
Egypt's well-known player, Mohammed Salah who plays for UK-based Liverpool Club and the Egyptians National Team. (AFP/File Photo)

While the Egyptian dream of the World Cup was lost completely, critical voices rose indicating the national football team faults highlighting what needs to be improved in their performance for future.

A featured report released by Egypt-based Mada Masr revealed the ugly truth on the religious discrimination carried out by the administration of athletics and football in Egypt against Copt players when joining local football clubs or even the national football team of their country.

The report tells the stories of five Egyptian Christian players, two of them were under 18. They faced obvious acts of discrimination while trying to join local football clubs or the national team.

One of them is Remon Zakhary, who was qualified to sign a contract with local Gouna club, was rejected after showing his ID to the club coach. “I presented my ID to complete the contract and Youssef [the club coach] saw my name. He was surprised to learn that Remon is my real name and not a nickname. He returned my ID and left the room.” He was later told that the Youssef doesn’t like to work with Christians.

 

Mina Halim is another Egyptian Christian football player who faced discrimination because of his explicit Christian name. When Mina applied to the admission test to join Ghazl al-Mahalla club as a goalkeeper, coaches told Mina Halim that they would call him back, but never did.

It might seem normal if he did not perform well, but Mina confirmed that the coaching crew were impressed by his performance, however, when he got to tell his name they interrupted him. “I didn’t even get to finish saying my name, they interrupted me and said they will call me later, and they didn’t,” he said.

Also Mina Milad, another football player, has his own story in which he faced discrimination because of his religion as well as Tony Atef and Mina Essam, who countered difference stories on religious discrimination.

While there are no official statistics on the number of Egyptian Copts, latest statistics conducted in 1986 when Copts consisted less than 5% of the total population.

In the history of Egyptian football, there were rarely seen any Christian football player playing on the ground, however, the only exception is Hany Ramzy, a famous Egyptian Copt player who played with the national football team in the 1990s, and served as the coach of Egypt’s Olympic football team in 2012.

The report raised concerns of the increasing number of discrimination cases among Egyptian football players.

According to ABC News website, Pope Tawadros II, head of the Orthodox Coptic Christians, has recently pointed out to the issue with “uncustomary bluntness”. "It's extraordinary that all of Egypt's football teams don't have a single Copt who has good legs and who kicked a ball on the streets when he was little," he said.

The report is still shared among Egyptians cautiously as issues of religious discrimination are considered as highly-sensitive topics.

Amro Ali, an Egyptian professor at the American University shared the report and wrote on Twitter: “An exhilarating football victory for Egypt will always leave a sour taste if a “national” team is consistently made up of a tone-deaf homogeneous force not truly representative of the country, especially the large 10-15% Christian population.”

While many Egyptians shared the story that was written by several news website following Mada Nasr,

 

Whether some people agreed or not on the report, the issue of religious discrimination in Egypt does exist and religious minorities are still facing significant threats of terrorist attacks and sectarian violence in the country despite all attempts to renew religious discourse and challenge the ideology of extremists, it still exists.


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