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Egypt vs. USA Should be Moved, not Canceled

With the United States government issuing a travel warning, and even planning to help Americans leave Egypt, it is highly unlikely that the two national teams face off in Cairo on February 9th. While the level of violence in this revolution is relatively low for a nation with such a large population, there is still violence. Looting is spreading, with only civilians guarding property. There is a security vacuum, and while there is not a level of anti-American rhetoric, that vacuum does not point to a high-profile friendly. Press agencies are getting their offices closed, and part of the point of this friendly is so that people can watch. With the internet and cell service being shutdown at will by the government, American sports media would have trouble covering the event. At the same point, they would be forced into dual service covering soccer and politics, something the Egyptian government would not want.

At the same time, the match should go on. The people of Egypt deserve to see their heroes. They need a partial distraction of happiness. Plus, those that are behaving non-violently deserve rewards, even ones so small as seeing 11 men kick a ball. Soccer, in fact all sports, has a history of providing a context for our larger struggles, for stopping civil war, for providing a pause during World War. It has been used to bridge gaps between rival nations. This week it can be used to provide hope, and support between two friendly nations.

Currently the USSF is watching things closely, but the time to start planing an alternative is now. Update: Goff at the Washington Post reports that the federations are exploring a change of venue.

... in an attempt to salvage the match, organizers are apparently exploring alternate venues in that region.

But where should it be held?

Doha, Qatar - Qatar just hosted the Asian Cup, an event that had great soccer played amongst nations that are climbing the ladder to similar levels to the USA and Egypt. But the event was marred with disturbances around the Final when somewhere between 700 and 10,000 paying fans were barred from entering the stadium. The Qatari government and football federation have lessons to learn, and hosting a match of this caliber would help show that they can learn quickly.

Turkey - Turkey is in a position that they are a democratic nation in the Mid-East at peace with its neighbors and both participants, and can be seen as a beacon for integrating the West and Islam. It has large stadia, a rapidly improving national team and a pro league. Having UEFA turn down multiple bids to host the Euros, a match like this could help show it is able to host a match and elevate the profile of a mere friendly.

Israel - Like Turkey, it is a democratic nation at peace with all parties involved. Considering the recent change that the Muslim Brotherhood has picked a side in the revolution, a major step of outreach such as this could signal that Israel is confident that a new Egypt will still be a peaceful neighbor.

Western Europe - There are Arab populations scattered throughout Western Europe, particularly in France, England and Italy, but certainly not limited. The facilities are great, the ability to broadcast from anywhere is easy. Honestly this is the simple solution, but the benefits are so minor.

USA - Likely the easiest solution. The match would have high attendance, though it may be difficult to get the Egyptian players so far with so little planning, particularly as there are reports that they are participating in the protests. There are dozens of venues that won't be in use that weekend, and with a fairly large Egyptian population would give the opportunity to gather, watch both of their home teams, and raise awareness of the events in their nation. Yes, there would be demonstrations in support of the protests, but in America those would involve chants, banners and flags, as they already are throughout the USA.

What are your preferences and why?

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