Egyptian Football Legend on “Terror List” Despite Unofficial Charges
May 2015, Yasser Thabet, an author on Egyptian football according to Middle East Eye said, “If it was a lesser known or a less popular player, I think Aboutrika would have been through harsher times.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “His popularity has given him some immunity.” [/perfectpullquote]
The heavily criticized anti-terrorism law passed in 2015, subjects him to a travel ban and having his passport and assets frozen for years, despite the former midfielder currently commentating at the AFCON games in Gabon.
Aboutrika’s lawyer, Mohamed Osman, said the decision was made “contrary to the law” and that his client has “not been convicted or formally notified of any of the charges against him.”
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We will appeal this decision,” [/perfectpullquote]
Earlier still in 2015, Egypt’s government committee in charge of seizing assets of organizations that fund the Muslim Brotherhood – blacklisted as a terrorist group in 2013 – confiscated the former al-Ahly and Egyptian star’s shares in a tourism company which he helped create in 2012.
However, according to his lawyer Osman, Aboutrika’s assets are still under seizure despite a court ruling in June 2016, lifting the asset freeze.
Aboutrika’s involvement was further implicated when the company’s director was arrested on charges of participating in hostile acts toward the state, in addition to the former player’s endorsement of the Islamist brotherhood in the 2012 elections. Aboutrika has always denied any association with the Brotherhood.
“I would also like to make it clear that the case so far has not gone beyond the investigations phase, Aboutrika said in 2015. “Even the head of the (investigating) committee, Ezzat Khamis made media statements saying there are no official charges yet.”
The man known as the Smiling Assassin is prominently remembered for his fairness but also, his political stand following the unfortunate event on February 1, 2012, that saw 74 football fans, lose their lives in the devastating Port Said riot.
It is the same time the Egyptian icon spoke out against that day’s atrocities on football that were allegedly politically motivated and ignored.
“This is not football. This is a war,” Aboutrika yells in Arabic in a televised interview. “People are dying in front of us. There is no security and no ambulances.”
“I call for the Premier League to be canceled. This is a horrible situation, and today can never be forgotten.”
And indeed the league was canceled.
Watching Aboutrika lead the Egyptian attack was something of glamor and admiration for a player who turned down many offers to play in European top leagues and instead, chose to play out his career in Egypt.
For him, home is where he belongs and during the same riot, he took a dying boy in his arms who instead of worrying for his survival, was rather ecstatic at the chance of meeting, let alone being embraced, by his hero.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Captain, I’ve spent my life dying to meet you. And now that I’ve met you, I know it is my time to die,”[/perfectpullquote]
the boy told Aboutrika
Even as a man of stature, he still maintained his on-field role model persona carrying it with him off the pitch.
The 38-year old’s piety-like persona stretches to his role as a United Nations Development Program Goodwill ambassador as well as working for the World Food Program, volunteering to help children with cancer, and participating in blood donation campaigns.
How far the political line is drawn on Aboutrika’s as he embraces life in retirement, remains to be seen because when Aboutrika speaks, the people of Egypt listen.
2008 BBC African Footballer of the Year, five-time Egyptian Player of the year, four-time Africa’s Best Player of the Year, first runner-up in the 2008 African Footballer of the Year.
He won two back to back AFCON titles with Egypt, five CAF Champions League titles with al-Ahly, Bronze Medal at the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup, and over ten domestic trophies with al-Ahly
Featured photo: Mohamed Aboutrika (waving) is still embroidered in Egypt’s political woes. (Reuters)