If you want to play for the Egypt national soccer team, you have to meet their qualifications:
- Be Muslim
Skill seems to come in a distant second:
There are no Christians on the squad defending its African Cup of Nations title in Angola.
For years, Egyptian athletes have demonstrated their piety in front of fans and the media — kneeling down to offer a prayer of thanks after scoring or winning, or praying before games to implore God to come to their team’s aid.
[Coach Hassan] Shehata’s comments take religion in sports to a whole new level. He was quoted by Cairo newspapers as saying skill alone won’t guarantee anyone a place on the national team.
He said “pious behavior” was the main reason for selection.
“Without it, we will never select any player regardless of his potential,” he said. “I always strive to make sure that those who wear the Egypt jersey are on good terms with God.”
And clearly, this is all working out for them:
Egypt failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals in South Africa, losing to Algeria 1-0 in a make-or-break decider. Egypt last qualified to the World Cup in 1990.
(Thanks to Jack for the link!)