Sunday, June 24, 2012
With the election of an Islamist in Egypt Icontinue to be dismayed by the so called Arab spring. Prof Mansur is of a similar mind. ORAN, ALGERIA - A cool evening breeze brings relief over the faded glory of the city I am visiting. This was once the prized French metropolitan on the Mediterranean that Albert Camus made the setting of his novel, The Plague. The crowd is gone and the street is about empty. But inside the cafe where I am sitting, there is smoke, loud arguments and anticipation as people await the games of Euro 2012 to begin. Algeria is a soccer-crazy country, as is all of North Africa. In the cafe the noise is friendly while individuals share with each other the game’s history, relish arguments over previous tournaments, recall earlier matches, and talk about their favourite players from the past, comparing them with performances of the current stars, such as Spain’s Fernando Torres or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The scene around me is not unusual, for soccer is a main topic of conversation wherever people gather. But the passion for it is also a measure of the general disdain for politics. Algeria is close to Tunisia — the ground zero of the so-called Arab Spring — and it is instructive to draw upon its recent history to understand why the expectations of a year ago for democratic change across the region peaked and then headed for a crash.