In News, Press Releases

By Coptic SolidarityChristian News Wire

For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC) September 9, 2019

Today, Coptic Solidarity (CS) launched a new advocacy campaign by which individuals worldwide can send direct messages to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), and to the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) regarding discrimination against Coptic athletes in Egypt. To send a message in support of #CopticAthletes, go to Coptic Solidarity’s website.

The Egyptian Olympic Mission to Brazil in 2016 was completely devoid of Copts; same too the Egyptian National Team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Not a single Copt can be found on either the main team or the reserve. There are currently 540 players in the top-flight soccer clubs in Egypt; only one is a Copt—despite the fact that Copts comprise at least ten percent of Egypt’s population. During the past half-century, an infinitesimally tiny number of Coptic footballers – at most six – have managed to join top flight soccer clubs.

This systematic discrimination based on religion is in direct contravention of  article 4 of FIFA’s Statutes. FIFA has a duty to uphold its policy of anti-discrimination for member associations and to take appropriate action to ensure that the Egyptian Football Federation ends discrimination against Coptic athletes.

Coptic Solidarity’s president, Ms. Caroline Doss Esq., states: “Sports are to be participated in by all. It is inconceivable that not a single Coptic athlete is skilled enough to represent Egypt in sports, particularly considering that Egypt is the 14th most populous country in the world with at least 15 million Copts. Your action is necessary to bring an end to this religiously-motivated discrimination.”

CS first reported widespread discrimination against Coptic athletes in Egypt to the International Olympic Committee and to FIFA in August 2016. Neither entity responded until European news outlets published stories on the topic in 2018 during the lead up to the World Cup. A FIFA employee finally contacted CS requesting additional information—twenty months after the original complaint was sent.

CS Executive Committee member, Mr. Magdi Khalil, researched and wrote a report titled Discrimination Against Copts in Egyptian Sport Clubs which CS emailed directly to FIFA officials and submitted via their online complaints mechanism on June 17, 2018. The report contains an overview of the widespread discrimination against Copts in football and includes ample sources and testimonies by moderate Muslims corroborating the reality of such ongoing discrimination. It also includes a sampling of 25 of the cases reported to CS by Coptic footballers.

On October 30, 2018, Coptic Solidarity followed up with FIFA regarding the report submitted and received no reply. CS did so again on August 1, 2019 and secured a conference call with Mr. Andreas Graf, the Human Rights Manager, Sustainability & Diversity Department for FIFA, based in Zurich on August 27, 2019. Coptic Solidarity urged FIFA to conduct a truly independent investigation into discrimination against Copts amongst other recommendations.

Coptic Solidarity also urges the Egyptian Football Association to:

  1. Institute a 10% quota for Coptic footballers at the club level and on the national, reserve, and youth teams.
  2. Create an online mechanism for athletes to report discrimination and to hire a qualified team to investigate these claims in a timely manner. A policy of non-retaliation is critical to the success of a reporting mechanism.
  3. Appoint a contact person for diversity and anti-discrimination as recommended in FIFA’s Good Practice Guide.
  4. Create an action plan to combat discrimination as recommended in FIFA’s Good Practice Guide.

Interested individuals are encouraged to send a message to the EFA supporting the request. This can be done on CS’s website which provides a sample letter that can be edited and sent directly to the EFA.

Both entities have a duty to investigate religiously motivated discrimination against athletes and take appropriate action to rectify this situation and to ensure that Coptic athletes are afforded equal opportunities to pursue their dreams and develop their talents to maximum potential.

Coptic Solidarity is an organization seeking to help minorities, particularly the Copts, of Egypt. We support those in Egypt working for democracy, freedom, and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Egyptian citizens, and advocate in cooperation with the affiliated organizations in Canada and in Europe (Solidarité Copte). For more information, contact Lindsay Griffin at 801-512-1713 or coptadvocacy@copticsolidarity.org

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