Category Archives: Soccer

Kissing the Koran – A Christian Soccer Captain’s Duty

Coptic Martyr3My thriller “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo” – part of the Brother Half Angel series – has a sub-theme that involves soccer. One of the protagonists – an Egyptian Islamist – is crazy about the sport, and this forms a back-drop to a clash in the book between Muslims and Christians.

One of the leading Mideast soccer powers, along with Egypt, is Iran, which has competed four times at the World Cup. I was interested to see that its captain is a Christian. According to a recent report in The Guardian:

As Iran’s national football team prepared to head to the World Cup last year, Andranik Teymourian stood next to his teammates while they lined up to kiss the holy Islamic book, the Koran, as part of the farewell ceremony.

Iran Christian football captainAlthough he is not a Muslim, the Iranian Armenian didn’t want to rock the boat and so performed the ritual for travellers, which is a quintessential part of Iranian culture. The cleric holding up the Qur’an could hardly disguise his amusement at the scene.

The 32-year-old midfielder, known as Ando – or Samurai, due to his hairstyle – is not shy of showing his Christianity, often crossing himself on the field.

In other soccer news, the Daily Pakistan newspaper presents “Five reasons Pakistani Women’s Football team will make you a fan!” On display are five very attractive players.

Pakistan Christian soccer playerReason #3 is Joyann Geraldine Thomas – “She is not just the first Christian woman to play for the Pakistani women’s football team, but also one of the youngest. She made her international debut shortly after turning 17, in 2014.”

Finally, devoutly Christian Brazilian soccer star David Luiz was recently baptized, and he took the occasion to announce that he would not engage in sex with his girlfriend until after they were married. This led to press reports that he was a virgin.

For some reason this angered Luiz, who accused the press of a lack of respect. “I’m not a virgin. I’ve had more than one girlfriend in my life,” he announced. “Some people in the press don’t respect people in life. I can put my head on my pillow and sleep great because I respect everyone. My religion, my baptism, I’m very happy.”

Soccer Riots in Egypt – Why My Novel Sometimes Reads Like a Daily Newspaper

My Brother Half Angel thrillers are based on current events, so it is little wonder that, now and again, some particular news item seems to be lifted straight from one of my books.

It has just happened again, with news that rioting at a soccer match in Egypt has led to the death of around 25 fans from the Zamalek club.

Coptic Martyr3Soccer fans from Egypt are not the only ones with a proclivity towards violence. But what marks them out is that they are also involved in the country’s politics.

Soccer club supporters were involved – often quite murderously – in the Arab Spring demonstrations and in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

In my novel “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo I featured a violent soccer club fan as one of the main villains. Here is an excerpt –

But still, it was summer and he was bored. It wasn’t just the intense heat. It was the lack of soccer. Here in Egypt he followed Al Ahly, the country’s top team, and was a member of the Ultras, their fanatical supporters. The Ultras specialized in beating up the supporters of their opponents. Mohamed was just thirteen when he and his friends began traveling down to Cairo to watch Al Ahly games. The best were always those against their hated Cairo rivals Zamalek, when the taunts and provocations of players and supporters alike usually turned the pitch into a war zone. In fact, the Egyptian soccer authorities often imported foreign umpires just for this game, such were the passions on and off the field. Just as enjoyable – and bloody – were the matches between the Egyptian national team and their hated rivals the Algerians.

It was their fighting prowess that led the Muslim Brotherhood to recruit the Ultras when the Arab Spring uprisings began.  Mohamed had been on the front lines in Tahrir Square, braving the tear gas and the bullets, along with the other Ultras, fighting for an end to the hated Mubarak regime. He had little doubt that it was the muscle of the Ultras, not the weak-kneed protests of the democracy advocates, that had brought down the government.

Beautiful Soccer Fans – Another Side of Iran

Hundreds of beautiful Iranian women have been turning out to watch their country’s soccer players at the Asian Cup tournament, now under way here in Australia.

It has caused consternation back home in Iran, where women are not allowed to attend men’s sporting events. Here is the Sydney Morning Herald:

Ali Akbar Mohamedzade, head of the moral committee of the Iranian Football Federation, issued [a] warning last week as photos of players with women fans circulated on social media.

“National team players should be aware that they won’t be used as a political tool so that those who take pictures with them don’t use these photos against the players,” Iran’s “Shahrvand” newspaper quoted him as saying. “So according to this they should not take photos with everyone. If the players don’t respect this, we will be obliged to take action.”

It is an indication that Iran is not as monolithic as many Westerners believe. Despite the fierce anti-Americanism of the government, the people are surprisingly Western in their outlook, and in fact very pro-America.

Tens of thousands of Iranians live in Australia. They are showing their support for their former homeland with their enthusiastic support for the Iran soccer team (one of the favorities for the tournament, by the way).

But they are also showing that Iran could one day change in ways that no one expects.

More Trouble In Egypt As Soccer Fans Erupt

By Martin Roth

Egypt is in turmoil. And it is not just political. Sport is involved, too.

In my novel “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo” the main villain, named Mohamed Marzouk and responsible for the murder of a priest and the kidnap of a young Egyptian Christian, is a huge soccer fan. He is a member of the Ultras, the super-fanatical group that supports Cairo’s Al Ahly team.

Here is a part of what I wrote:

The Ultras specialized in beating up the supporters of their opponents. Mohamed was just thirteen when he and his friends began traveling down to Cairo to watch Al Ahly games. The best were always those against their hated Cairo rivals Zamalek, when the taunts and provocations of players and supporters alike usually turned the pitch into a war zone. In fact, the Egyptian soccer authorities often imported foreign umpires just for this game, such were the passions on and off the field. Just as enjoyable – and bloody – were the matches between the Egyptian national team and their hated rivals the Algerians.

It was their fighting prowess that led the Muslim Brotherhood to recruit the Ultras when the Arab Spring uprisings began.  Mohamed had been on the front lines in Tahrir Square, braving the tear gas and the bullets, along with the other Ultras, fighting for an end to the hated Mubarak regime. He had little doubt that it was the muscle of the Ultras, not the weak-kneed protests of the democracy advocates, that had brought down the government.

Of course, the authorities had to take revenge, and they did so in February 2012 when a riot broke out at an Al Ahly game against Al Masry in Port Said and seventy-nine people died, with more than one thousand injured. Fortunately Mohamed had run out of money that weekend, and hadn’t traveled to watch the match, otherwise he would surely have been in the thick of the violence, and might have ended up among the dead.

But he remembered angrily discussing the disaster with friends later. “You saw it all on television. The authorities didn’t even attempt to search the Al Masry supporters.”

“When have you ever gone to a soccer match where you aren’t searched for weapons?”

“Exactly. The Al Masry supporters were all carrying knives. It was allowed by the authorities.”

“Allowed? It was encouraged. And then when our boys were attacked the police did nothing.”

“They even locked some of the gates, so our boys couldn’t escape. Then they just stood by and watched.”

An Egyptian court has just handed down a verdict in the trial of some of the instigators of that soccer riot in Port Said, sentencing 21 of them to death. This has led to more rioting, with several dozen further deaths. According to a report:

In Cairo, the divisive nature of the trial was on display. Relatives of those killed at the soccer game erupted in joy in the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

Families yelled “Allahu Akbar!” Arabic for “God is great” and pumped their fists in the air. Others held up pictures of the deceased, most of whom were young men from Cairo’s poor neighborhoods.

…Fans of Al Ahly, mostly young men in their teens, promised more violence in the days leading up to the verdict if the death penalty was not handed down. Their main Facebook page had called for bloodshed.

“This was necessary,” said Nour al-Sabah, whose 17-year-old son Ahmed Zakaria died in last year’s melee. “Now I want to see the guys when they are executed with my own eyes, just as they saw the murder of my son.”