Libya and Algeria Extend Soccer Match Cancellations to Thwart Protests
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With anti-government protests sweeping through North Africa, soccer match cancellations have become the flavour of the day.
The cancellations are intended to prevent the pitch from becoming a platform for protests.
Soccer fans have played a key role in the turmoil, causing the Algerian Football Federation to announce on Tuesday the cancellation of its friendly against Tunisia, scheduled for February 5th.
Lybia and Algeria have followed suit, suspending all soccer matches indefinitely, due to anti-government demonstrations planned for February 12th in Algiers and February 17th in Benghazi and Tripoli.
It remained unclear whether Libya will go ahead with plans for a friendly against Morocco scheduled for February 9th in Marrakech.
Opponents of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir have called for mass protests in Khartoum on February 3rd, the eve of the opening of the second African Cup of Nations for Home-Based Players, scheduled to kick off on February 4th.
The cancellation of Libyan matches was prompted by demonstrations against corruption in public housing in provincial cities and government fears that the US diplomatic cables were disclosed by Wikileaks, detailing the corruption and decadent lifestyle of Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi and his family, which could fuel further protests.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fate also hangs in the balance as thousands of demonstrators rejected his concession Tuesday not to run for re-election in September, demanding an immediate end to his 30-year rule. Soccer fans have played a key role in Mubarak's potential downfall.
Three Libyans in the town of Tobruk have been on a hunger strike since last week to protest against unemployment and lack of decent housing.
Like elsewhere across the region, Libyan activists are employing Facebook to mobilize in advance of the demonstrations planned for February 17th. The Facebook group, created this week with some 2,000 members as of this writing, is calling for the 17th to be a day of anger.
The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), part of a group calling itself the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, said the protest was designed to force President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office and put an end to the long-standing state of emergency in the country.
James M. Dorsey authors The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog
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