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Sunday, 22 July 2018

How Egyptian Footballers That are Christians are Usually Discriminated


For many years in Egypt now, the Christians are usually treated with disdain as they are usually referred to as the minors.

When cafes across Egypt flood with excited supporters this month to watch the national team take part in a World Cup for the first time since 1990, there will be a sense of frustration among many of the country’s Coptic Christian footballers who claim only Muslims get to play.
One former player, Mina Bendary, 22, from Alexandria, gave up on his dream of becoming a professional player in 2015 due to what he perceives as religious discrimination. He says that having a Coptic Christian name proved an obstacle to cementing a place in the first team after joining Al Ittihad, an Alexandria-based Premier League club, three years earlier.
“Christians simply don’t play in professional football clubs in Egypt,” he said. “I was told by club officials to change my name in order to play professionally.”
Egypt, the most successful team in Africa Cup of Nations history, will line up against Uruguay on June 15 for their opening match of the tournament in Russia without a single Christian even in the squad, let alone the starting XI. The outlook at domestic level is no better; there are no Copts presently playing in the Egyptian Premier League, even in the country’s biggest clubs, such as El Ahly and Zamalek – a remarkable statistic given that around ten per cent of Egypt’s population is made up of Copts.
Their absence at a professional level is “not an impossible statistical anomaly, but a product of deep-rooted discrimination that exists in the administration of football in Egypt and in Egyptian society at large”, according to Coptic Solidarity, a US-based organisation dedicated to achieve equal citizenship for Egypt’s Coptic Christians.
In April, the former Egypt international and Tottenham Hotspur striker Ahmed Hossam, better known as Mido, who is a Muslim, publicly addressed the issue of religious discrimination young and talented football players face in Egypt.
During an interview on Egypt’s DMC Sport channel, the former Zamalek manager said: “How is it possible that in the history of Egyptian football there have only been five Christian players in the top level [Egyptian Premier League]?. There are Christian players who stop playing at a young age because of the discrimination by some of the coaches.”
In recent history, Hany Ramzy, who played for Egypt between 1988 and 2003, is the only Coptic Christian to have represented the national team. Among the other Copts playing at the highest level of domestic football in Egypt are Ashraf Youssef, who played for Zamalek during the 1990s, Nasser Farouk, who played for Ghazl El Mahalla until 2013, and Mohsen Abdel Massih, who played for Ismaily in the 1980s.
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