Egypt and Algeria up the ante

CAIRO - A crunch World Cup qualifier between Egypt and Algeria in Cairo tomorrow has seen unprecedented tensions between the North African rivals spill onto the Internet in a no-holds-barred cyber war.

CAIRO - A crunch World Cup qualifier between Egypt and Algeria in Cairo tomorrow has seen unprecedented tensions between the North African rivals spill onto the Internet in a no-holds-barred cyber war.

The footballing showdown has been the talk of the town for weeks, with Facebook groups, Twitter statuses, newspaper headlines and television advertisements setting up for the big game.

The verbal sparring has reached such a pitch that both governments have issued appeals for calm.

On the Internet, Algerian and Egyptian fans have hurled abuse at each other, reviving a decades-old on-pitch enmity that erupted into violent riots during a similar qualifier in 1989.

"Listen to me Pharaohs, you are already cursed," said an Algerian music video circulating on the web addressing the Egyptian football team and laced with profanities.

But the lashing goes beyond football, targeting Egypt's insecurity over its defeat to Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, which saw the loss of Arab territories most of which are still unrecovered two decades after Cairo's controversial peace treaty with the Jewish state.

"Israel beat you in six days in 1967... We are not the ones who sold Palestine to the Jews," the song charged, played against a picture of the Cairo-based Sunni Muslim authority Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi shaking hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Egyptian fans hit back with a song of their own that received 29462 views on the popular video sharing website, YouTube.

"Your words are not important, your words do not affect us.

"Talk to me in French because your Arabic is so broken," the Egyptian song retorted.

"We liberated you when France made you slaves," the Egyptian song added referring to the support given by then Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser to the Algerian independence movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Egypt have to secure a three-goal difference to make it to the World Cup. A two-goal difference would take both teams to Sudan for a rematch. - Sapa-AFP

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