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General News Mon, 19 Jun 2006

Fury in Egypt over Ghana's Israeli flag waver

CAIRO (AFP) - Ghana defender John Paintsil's waving of an Israeli flag to celebrate his team's World Cup goals drew a barrage of insults and furious reactions in Monday's Egyptian newspapers.


Paintsil, who plays for Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, celebrated the two goals in Ghana's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic by pulling an Israeli flag out of his sock and waving it at the cameras.


"The ignorant and stupid Paintsil, who spent 20 days in Egypt during the last African Nations Cup, plays for Hapoel," sports commentator Alaa Sadek wrote in the daily Al-Akhbar, explaining to baffled Egyptian audiences Painstil's link to Israel.


"Egyptians supported the Ghanaian team all the way until the 82nd minute, and regretted it after the Israeli flag (waving)," screamed a bold red headline in the independent daily Al-Masry al-Yom.


"As soon as the referee blew his whistle to start the match, Egyptians were out enthusiastically, almost hysterically supporting Ghana, until defender John Paintsil took out the Israeli flag," read the paper's front page article.

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The live commentator on the Arab satellite channel broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark "goooaaaaaaal" when Paintsil brought out the flag.


"What are you doing, man?" the bewildered commentator said.


The main question on Egyptian lips after the match was "why?".


Some papers described Paintsil as a "Mossad agent", others said "an Israeli had paid him to do it" but the most elaborate theory was offered by the top-selling state-owned daily Al-Ahram.


"The real reason," sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi wrote, stems from the fact that many Ghanaian players go through football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who "discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent's children" with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.

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"The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag," Mestekawi claimed.


FIFA said they had taken note of the flag-waving and that although there was nothing in the rules to prevent it, they hoped not to see a repetition.


Egyptian football fans who were out supporting Ghana on Saturday's match were equally rattled when the player took out the Israeli flag and dubbed him "the Israghani" (Israeli-Ghanaian).


"We were totally supporting Ghana and we were so excited by how well they were doing," Ashraf al-Berri, who watched the match with a dozen friends told AFP.


"We were screaming with joy, but the whole room went quiet when Paintsil took out the flag. We didn't really know how to react," he said.

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"As an Egyptian I am very sensitive when it comes to Israel," Osama Mohy, who watched the match at a friend's house, told AFP.


"If Mido scores, would he wave the england flag? and if he did everyone would hate him for it," he said refering to Egyptian striker Mido (Ahmed Hossam) who plays for England's Tottenham Hotspurs.


African champions Egypt failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Source: AFP