Text by love.fútbol correspondent, Casey Moore.
Sometimes fútbol is labeled the “universal language” and I am not one to disagree, especially after this week. Starting tomorrow, love.fútbol will debut a series of graphics created by Egyptian artist duo, the Oraby brothers, Mozer and Mohanad, focusing on the heroes that rise out of soccer. This isn’t just praise from what happens on the pitch but more so what happens off of it. Fútbol isn’t just game in the majority of the world; it is a vehicle for change. These two Egyptian brothers have lived revolution and, as they made clear, fútbol was a part of it.
I sat down at my desk to conduct a Skype interview with the Oraby’s and their passion for soccer was apparent from the beginning. “We were playing football this morning with our team! Football here is life! Really!” They went on to explain that the day before, a Sunday, they had sat in front of their TV watching matches from all over the world. Their passion for the game was second to none.
However, it wasn’t all happiness and laughter as I asked about the role that the game had played in the Arab Spring and Egypt’s revolution. “There are some problems here in Egypt. [There are problems] With the supporters.” They spoke about the recent tragedies, “It was a hard period in Egyptian fútbol because of what happened in Port Said.” The Port Said tragedy saw 74 fútbol supporters killed on February 1, 2012, under strange and still hotly debated circumstances relating to politics.
With a mixture of hope and sorrow the two told me about Mohammad Salah’s recent decision to wear the number 74 at Fiorentina (Italian soccer club). “It was a great move from Salah [to wear the number 74].” Said one brother. The other brother finished by saying, “Ahyl fans still think about it. They will never forget. …Salah appreciated all the people who died in this [tragedy].” There was a few seconds of silence as I noticed the two gathering their thoughts. This is still a very fresh wound on the landscape of fútbol in their country.
The mood greatly changed when the name Mohamed Aboutrika comes up. For those of you who have never heard of Aboutrika, he was a tricky attacking midfielder who played over 150 times for Al-Ahly and has a century of caps for Egypt. He was nominated in 2006, 2008 and 2013 for African Footballer of the Year. He announced his retirement in 2013 after being knocked out of the FIFA Club World Cup. He is also a national hero. “There are some real heroes here in Egypt. Aboutrika is the only one who refused to play after what happened at Port Said. I guess it was only Aboutrika who showed respect to those who died in Tahir (one of the main settings of protest in Egypt during the revolution) or in the Ahly tragedy”, said the Orabys. They spoke about his involvement with the revolution, “It was like guerilla actions, not like a player speaking with the media and saying they were going to go to Tahir Square. Only Mohamed Aboutrika did this. He is now a national icon here in Egypt. He loves his people.” Hearing this my minds eye saw the brothers standing, barrel chested and proud, proud of their countryman, of themselves and of fútbol.
Fútbol means all things to all people. To some it is an escape from the everyday. It is a simple view of humanity’s flaws as well as its beauty. In Egypt they saw tragedy but from the brothers’ point of view they used this game to not only empower themselves but to empower the people around them. Aboutrika was at one point just a man but because of his skill with the ball at his feet and his love for his country he became a true hero. To us, these two are fútbol heroes. They embody what we, at love.fútbol, believe to be the one truth; the sport can help people overcome any situation. love.fútbol works with amazing individuals, such as Monzer and Mohaned, to spread the word of positivity and give people the tools to create change in their own communities through the game.
We hope you love these amazing works of art and will continue to support us in 2015!