EGYPT: Soccer rift makes Mubarak’s oldest son a hero

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If one Egyptian has benefited from the conflict between Egypt and Algeria following the two countries’ soccer games in the World Cup qualifications, it would be President Hosni Mubarak’s son Alaa, whose popularity among his countrymen has been on the rise following his dramatic statements against Algerian fans and officials.

Alongside his younger brother, Gamal, a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party, Alaa ( a businessman with no interest in politics) was in Khartoum, Sudan, cheering for his country during Egypt’s 1-0 loss to Algeria in the qualifications’ playoff on Nov. 18.

Unlike Gamal, Alaa immediately made his anger public by voicing his frustrations over what he described as assaults he and other Egyptian fans endured at the hands of Algerians following the game.

In a live phone call to a television show for privately owned Dream TV one day after the match, Alaa said the Algerians he saw in Khartoum were mercenaries who practiced terror against Egyptian supporters, adding that whoever assaulted an Egyptian should be ‘beaten on his head.’


Less than 24 hours later, thousands of Egyptian Internet users were hailing Alaa Mubarak on their blogs. A Facebook group was initiated, calling for him to succeed his father as head of the state -- a post many analysts predict will go to Gamal.

In an article titled ’12 Reasons Behind Egyptians’ Love for Alaa Mubarak,’ Ibrahim Eissa, the chief editor of opposition newspaper Al Destour, said that people’s feelings toward Alaa were warmer than they were toward Gamal. Eissa wrote that Alaa’s simplicity and the fact that he didn’t seek fame were why Egyptians were so fond of him.

Alaa Mubarak later criticized Al Jazeera news channel, saying the Qatari network intentionally played a part in escalating the conflict between Egypt and Algeria. Mubarak’s son also blasted Algeria’s ambassador in Egypt, Abdel Qader Hadjar, for saying that his country had done nothing that necessitated an apology to Egyptians.

Though many believe that Alaa Mubarak is seizing the chance to enhance his reputation and probably have a greater role in Egyptian social and political life, Mubarak denied such suggestions, saying he wasn’t qualified to become president and that he had reacted to the Algerian spat as any average Egyptian man would.

The strife between Egypt and Algeria as a result of the soccer clashes spurred Egypt to recall its ambassador in Algiers. The Libyan state news agency announced that Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi will step in to mediate and end the current rift between Egypt and Algeria at the request of the Arab League.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo