Libya, concerned that mass anti-government demonstrations in neighbouring Egypt and the toppling of President Zine Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia on its western border could fuel further protests in the North African country, has cancelled all soccer matches, according to Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language news network quoted unidentified Libyan sources as saying a state of emergency and a security alert had been declared in Libyan areas bordering on Egypt. It said security sources were deploying in the region.
The sources told Al Jazeera that security forces were instructed to stop all public gatherings. The decision of the Libyan Football Federation to cancel all matches is believed to have been taken as a result of government attempts to prevent further demonstrations in Libya.
Soccer has emerged as an important factor in the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world. Soccer fans in Egypt are a major force in the protests that have already forced President Hosni Mubarak to form a new government and are gunning to put an end to his 30-year rule.
Soccer riots in Jordan in December that left 250 people, including 30 policemen, wounded, exposed a deepening cleavage between the kingdom’s East Bank Bedouin population and Jordanians of Palestinian origin.
Earlier this month, Algeria also cancelled all soccer matches in a bid to prevent the pitch from becoming a platform for mass protests that forced the government to put a lid on commodity prices.
Libyans took to the streets earlier this month to protest corruption in public housing.
James M. Dorsey authors The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.