The upscale district of Mohandiseen in Giza is home to one of the oldest and most venerable Egyptian sporting clubs, Zamalek Club. Zamalek’s famous football team whose traditional colour is white with two red stripes has earned the club the ‘white’ nickname or pun. The club was founded in 1911 and was dominated by the foreign expatriate community in Cairo as was the majority of sporting activities in Egypt. In 1930 the club’s 60 member assembly met and decided to expel the foreign members of the club. It was the beginning of an entirely Egyptian club and the start of glorious days ahead for the club and its football team. The last few years, however, witnessed difficult times for Zamalek. Financial problems, tax evasion claims, government intervention, and infighting plagued the club.
Change is possible
The history of the white clan and especially the 1930 incident came strongly to mind during the past fortnight. Friday 29 May saw the general assembly—this time it is a 28,000 plus member assembly—vote in a new board. The elections were a landmark in the history of Egyptian elections; the 89 per cent turnout meant some 25,950 voters cast their ballots from 9:00am to 8:00pm in 100 boxes in an operation that was the epitome of good order and transparency. Just as the Zamalek led Egypt into the process of Egyptianising its institutions back in 1930, it is now vanguard in democratic practise.
Mamdouh Abbas was elected to head the club. The choice carried a strong moral. The same man, Abbas, who had been appointed by the government to head the club during the period from 2006 to 2008 and was strongly opposed by the members, was voted into office by the same members in 2009 in a free election. Obviously, the former opposition was not against the person of Abbas—it is clear the members consider him the most fit to head the club—but he ought to come to office through the democratic will of the members not through government imposition.
It was also very telling that Zamalek members were neither fooled by the theatrical-style loud-voiced propaganda of other candidates but, when the time came to cast their ballots, they voted for the person who had made every effort to serve the club best. Nor did they fall for the old faces who had been on board of the club for decades, but preferred new, fresh faces to lead the club out of the doldrums and back to glory.
The moral is very clear. Change is possible; reform is here to stay.