Riots Force US Cancellation of Egyptian Soccer Friendly
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), bowing to reality, Monday cancelled the US national soccer team’s friendly against Egypt scheduled to be played in Cairo on February 9. "We were excited about the opportunity to play against Egypt, but due to the current situation all parties agreed it was best to cancel the match," USSF president Sunil Gulati said on the federation's website. "We appreciate the efforts of the Egyptian Football Association and the U.S. State Department as we worked through this situation," Gulati added. The USSF dithered in recent days, refusing to cancel the match although it was evident that mass demonstrations in Egypt demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule were not about to end any time soon. Even if the demonstrators succeed in toppling Mubarak in the coming days, it would take some time for calm and normalcy to be restored after at least a week of protests and violence that have wracked Cairo and other Egyptian cities. In refusing to cancel the match until today, the USSF was acting in many ways like the Obama administration, refusing to be seen as abandoning Mubarak, a long-standing US ally in the Middle East. The USSF was forced to cancel the match after Egyptian Football Association officials privately made clear that a US proposal to hold the match in a third country was not a realistic alternative. The EFA officials noted that neither the team nor they would be willing to leave Egypt while it is in turmoil. Team members, like many other Egyptians, have supported the protests while at the same time establishing neighbourhood watch teams to protect their families and property from thugs and criminals. With soccer fans playing a key role in the anti-Mubarak protests, neither the EFA or the team wanted to moreover risk being seen as abandoning Egypt at a time of likely historic change.