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The truth about Abu Treika
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 26 - 08 - 2013

Egypt's most famous and best liked footballer for the past decade Mohamed Abu Treika is in a situation these days unlike anything he's been in before. Inas Mazhar asks whether the star player's reported support for the Muslim Brotherhood could see the end of his career.
The Ahli maestro, beloved among fans, officials, teammates and the media has come under harsh criticism recently after reports linked him to the Muslim Brotherhood which is being cracked down upon by the government following the removal of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. And with the player himself remaining silent and leaving the job of clearing his name to close friends and his agent, the speculation goes on. For the majority of football fans and the public, Abu Treika, 34, is getting involved too deeply in politics and has been supporting what they believe is the wrong side of the political spectrum.
When Abu Treika celebrated a goal in an Egypt game at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008, he lifted his jersey in front of the cameras to show Gaza emblazoned on his t-shirt to show his sympathy for the Palestinians. The player was then warned by CAF for mixing sports with politics. However, he became a hero, not only in Egypt, but the Arab world not least of which because of strong criticisms he made against Israel on a TV programme.
During the January 2011 uprising, most football players, especially those who played for the national team showed support for the ousted president Hosni Mubarak who was the biggest supporter of the team as was his two sons. Except Abu Treika, who showed little appetite to back the ex-president or his family.
When the MB came close to ruling the country, the player publicly started showing support. Abu Treika is known to be religious and most Egyptians at the time supported the Brotherhood against the former regime and voted for them in the parliamentary and presidential elections.
After the ousting of Morsi it was announced that Abu Treika had sent electric generators as a donation for the Muslim Brotherhood outdoor sit-in in Rabaa should the electricity cut. Tweets coming from Abu Treika's account confirmed the generator story before his agent denied it. What made people more suspicious of the player's support for the MB was a TV programme which linked Abu Teika's support to returning a favour to Morsi for releasing his cousin who was sentenced to seven years for fraud.
But what made it worse for the player was him attacking the military which, backed by nationwide protests, deposed Morsi. The army is revered in Egypt, especially after it helped in Morsi's ouster.
Apparently, when Ahli arrived from Congo after beating Leopard 1-0 in a Champions League game, they were received at home by soldiers to protect the team on their way to spending the night at a nearby hotel as they arrived during curfew. It was reported Abu Treika had offended the officer in charge by saying sarcastically, “They are sending the military, who kill people, to safeguard us”.
Abu Treika was angry because the sit-in was removed by force when the team had travelled to Congo, with hundreds of deaths reported. Again, the player's agent denied the incident and so did the club. Some reports claim that Abu Treika had not addressed the officer directly but was talking to a teammate close to the officer but made sure he could hear him.
That was not Abu Treika's only incident with the military. When the team was attacked two years ago in Mali during a military coup in the African country, the head of the armed forces at the time Mohamed Tantawi sent a military plane to bring the team back home and he himself met the team at the airport. It was said the player refused to greet Tantawi.
Meanwhile, a security report was sent to Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid about the player. During his visit to the football federation, Abu Zeid told reporters that it is not in his authority to take any action with the player. “After 30 June, the country moved into a new phase and in such a stage, we should show respect for and appreciation of the military. And if Abu Treika truly committed this incident towards a military officer then he and his club should bear the consequences. The case is being investigated by security bodies and the sports ministry is not part of it. It is the player and his club's problem.”
The Ultras of Ahli are taking Abu Treika's side because he was the only player who refused to play in the super cup following the Port Said disaster in which 72 fans, mostly Ahli supporters, were killed during a league game in February last year.
The Ultras are warning against any action being taken against the player.
Still, Abu Treika remains silent and many believe that the only way to solve the issue is by the player taking the initiative and making an appearance and a statement and revealing the truth, whatever it is, to regain the credibility, love and respect of the nation he has so much of, or else he will be jeopardising the rest of his career, not only in Egypt but beyond.

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