Soccer Riots, Nude Blog Girls, Barack Obama and How Do You Like the Job So Far, Bob?

As usual, the airwaves are awash with reports regarding the horrifying incident at a soccer match in Port Said, Egypt where - at last report - 79 people were killed and up to 1000 injured - since, as we all know, "Soccer riot" is a headline few US media outlets can resist. And without some low-wattage gasbag with the intellectual throw-weight of a ground squirrel like Steven Cohen around to tell us that all those people died because they tried to get into the stadium without tickets, we're left to try and sort out the facts as best we can.

Unfortunately, the "fans without tickets" fable would be just about as accurate in this case as the ridiculous hogwash that, for example, the ever-reliable dimwits at ESPN are breathlessly retailing.

The fact is that this whole thing had virtually nothing to do with football and everything to do with a socio-political-economic-religious conflict that nobody much - including the State Department, the CIA, the NSA the US Congress and a single solitary person employed by a US news reporting agency - has the slightest understanding of.

Including, most assuredly, me.

But there really are some basic, incontrovertible facts here that can help us all gain a somewhat better understanding of what actually happened - and is happening today.

So let's start at the beginning:

Al-Ahly of Cairo, founded in 1907, is one of the oldest and proudest football clubs anywhere on Earth.

In 2000 the Confederation of African Football named Al-Ahly the "African Club of the Century" in recognition of their dominance of professional football on that continent.

In 2007 a group of fans organized a supporters group called Ultras Ahlawy, which is usually abbreviated to UA07.

Using slogans such as "We Are Egypt" and "Together Forever" they quickly became a major force with a massive catalog of songs and chants and a spectacular repertoire of pyro-tifo that would do any European club proud.

Their problem has always been twofold:

First, the team's fan base is predominantly working class and resents the way that large numbers of tickets were unavailable for sale to common fans.

Secondly, the old government - which had close ties with club ownership - decided that pyro displays were not to be allowed in the stadium.

Now as we know, in MLS this means they send some Rent-a-Cop around to the supporter's section to eject you from the building.

In pre-revolution Egypt, however, if the police caught you with a flare they dragged you off to the dreaded National Security Depot and tossed you in a cell with terrorists and political prisoners.

Government officials then began publishing photos of UA07 members drinking alcohol and announcing that the group had "no religion". The police started arresting people for no reason other than they were in public wearing Ultras Ahlywy gear.

In response, in 2010 UA07 announced a boycott of the club, which led to some meetings with team and government officials and a kind of uneasy truce where the fans agreed to come back and the authorities agreed to stop treating them like the local chapter of Al Queda.

Which brings us to the so-called "Arab Spring" when that nation's populace finally grew tired enough of the creaky and corrupt regime that had ruled the country ever since someone filled Anwar al Sadat full of bullets 30 some years ago.

As we all know - even the media got this part right - much of the country took to the streets.

Ultras Ahlywy (along with some other notable fan groups), being one of the few cohesive institutions left and one not particularly filled with affection for Mubarak's thugs, joined with the masses and participated prominently in street demonstrations and organized resistance.

Since the overthrow, they have been at the forefront of many of the big confrontations with security forces in the last year.

Put bluntly, the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military organization in control of the country) sees them as a threat and decided to show them who's boss, so they organized this little charade.

In what should have been an ominous sign, the military government replaced the Port Said Head of Security on January 20, and he immediately hired a whole bunch of what might only be described as thugs to serve as his new police force.

Fans filing into the al-Masry game on Wednesday night noticed that the massive show of force - which the police have maintained at football matches ever since they allowed the season to resume after a three-month suspension - was notably absent.

It was a warning sign that nobody apparently picked up on.

There are wildly conflicting reports on just who and how the riot started, but once it did, several key points are beyond dispute:

First, the armed security which was there stood aside and did nothing but watch. They were clearly under orders to do nothing. No one in a uniform lifted a finger.

Secondly, all of the gates to the stadium were inexplicably chained shut. UA97 fans attempting to flee the building found themselves trapped.

Third, contrary to the lawsuit filed by a group called The Association of Civil and Islamic Law Graduates, Barack Obama and the CIA did not actually plan this incident, although possibly there's some connection with their demand regarding the arrest and imprisonment of nude revolutionary blogger Aliya Mahdy.

Fourth, with the firing/resignation of the head of the Egypt FA and his entire board, it now appears that Bob Bradley is the highest ranking football official in the country.

Fifth, Sepp Blatter's utterly ignorant statement about how this is "a black day for football" while demanding an explanation from the Egypt FA and offering "any and all support" from FIFA for sorting this thing out is possibly the wierdest, dumbest and most clueless thing he's ever said, which takes some serious doing.

Mostly though, this whole thing is way, way more complex an issue than is easily condensed into an ESPN "Look at these insane soccer fans rioting" report.

(On a personal note, I'm certain that despite my best efforts there's a good deal that I've missed and some details which I've gotten at least partly wrong. Dammit Jim, I'm a soccer blogger, not an Egyptologist. So if you have facts or information or knowledge or insight that I lack, please share them. If you would, however, just this once, skip the obligatory lead sentence about what an ignoramus I am. Thanks.)

One is tempted to say that this incident had nothing whatever to do with soccer, and it's true up to a point.

But the bigger story is that the sport itself was used as a cover, an excuse which would make the organized beating of a bunch of people the government doesn't like seem to the rest of the world like just another hooliganism incident.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The fact that it isn't working out that way is, sadly, nothing to do with the western media who have been dutifully misreporting it for two days now.