World Cup: Arabs field satire as tournament brings joy and pain
TUNIS – Arab football fans have flooded social media with satire, celebrating unexpected victories and poking fun at their own misfortunes as Qatar hosts the Middle East’s first World Cup.
Lionel Messi was the butt of region-wide jokes after his team’s shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia last week.
One video shows the tearful Argentinian addressing journalists, dubbed in Arabic.
“Hello. Honestly, we got destroyed,” the voice sobs over emotional footage taken from Messi’s goodbye press conference on leaving Barcelona in 2021.
“We got humiliated. They ridiculed us and demolished us without mercy. I never imagined this could happen.”
A viral meme took a Louis Vuitton advertisement showing Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo playing chess, but replacing Messi with Saudi player Salem al-Dawsari.
And along with the satire came farce, in a widely shared clip showing a group of Saudi fans celebrating Dawsari’s stunning goal that secured the Green Falcons’ victory.
One fan got so excited he ran out of the room, tore the metal door off its hinges and threw it in the yard.
While Argentina’s fortunes later turned with emphatic victories over Mexico and Poland, the four Arab teams in the tournament have had mixed results.
Tunisia, in a tough group including title-holder France, had few reasons to celebrate, and its fans turned to self-deprecating humour even before the tournament started.
One group of Tunisians shared a video of themselves in traditional Sufi clothes singing a sad, religious-style funeral chorus.
“Nil would be okay against these unbeatable teams,” the lyrics go.
“I have so many woes, but I hope (Tunisian player) Msakni is on form”.
Another one posted a video blog begging France star Kylian Mbappe not to play against Tunisia in Wednesday’s match.
“The Tunisian people needs some joy, why do you want to play against us? Do you have a problem with us? Don’t play against us! Go to the hammam!”
Mbappe took to the field for only part of the match, which ended in a shock 1-0 Tunisia victory. After earlier defeats, though, it was not enough for them to advance to the next round.
Host Qatar, widely accused of corruption and rights abuses around the tournament, has also suffered repeated losses on the pitch.
After it became the first World Cup host to lose the opening match, against Ecuador, one Facebook user parodied a fact-checking service: “Not true: Qatar did not buy the match.”
Another meme featured an idle goalkeeper smoking a shisha pipe in front of the goal, with the caption “Ecuador’s keeper”.
The satire has not been limited to events on the pitch.
An official theme anthem of the tournament, a thumping and largely tuneless pop song featuring Lebanese pop diva Myriam Fares, has been widely criticised by Arab fans.
One video takes a clip of Fares herself saying, “As soon as I heard the first little section, ‘tukoh tukoh taka tukoh’, I said: that’s the song!”
The video then cuts to an actor from an old television series.
“That’s because you’re deaf!” he shouts. “You don’t listen through your ear. You listen through your nose!”
Other posts have touched on sensitive social issues, in a region where many young people struggle to find work and financial security.
“People will do anything to get a (World Cup) ticket,” one woman said in a video post. “But money for a dowry? No way.”
Regional politics are, of course, ever present.
One Lebanese meme joked that Iran’s match against the United States on Tuesday would be “the first time they play outside Lebanon”, referring to the country’s long history as a stage for proxy wars.
And after England’s blistering 6-2 victory over Iran last week, one meme quoted a supposed security source echoing a formula much-used in statements by Iranian authorities: “We will respond to the six goals at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place.” - AFP