Home > A Tale of Sport-Satire > Libya’s “El-Clasico”

Libya’s “El-Clasico”

In recent years, sports has played an increasingly influential role in peacebuilding efforts, bringing communities together and mending old wounds. Many readers can probably relate to this feeling, playing out longstanding rivalries (almost) peacefully on the sports field. But what if we could take this concept to the next level?

As a tribute to the irreverent, non-conformist spirit of the fine news source that is the Daily Segway, I will journey to a parallel universe where the 2011 Libyan Crisis would be interpreted as a high-stakes football match. I invite you to suspend your disbelief for the commentary that follows.

Tripoli. The June 11 National Stadium. 67,000 fans holding their breath as the country’s fate hangs in the balance. On one side, the Tripoli Totalitarians, owned by Col. Ghaddafi and his sons. On the other, the Benghazi Insurrectionists, with limited resources but armed with the boundless courage of youth.

The Totalitarians are coached and captained by none other than Saadi al-Ghaddafi, whom many Italian Serie A followers might remember fondly for his infamous appearances at Perugia Calcio and Udinese.

The formation consists mainly of Juventus players, due to the Ghaddafi family’s 7.5% stake in the Turin club. The Insurrectionists have yet to release their line-up and are, as yet, an untested quantity.

Kick-off As soon as the referee blows his whistle, the teams are already at each other’s throats. Both sides are acutely aware of the prize for the ultimate victor: control over the country and its vast oil reserves. The fans are in delirium, their own fortunes tied to the outcome of the match.

8’ Encouraged by their superior tactical and physical advantage, the Totalitarians attempt to administer the game with a measured albeit passive style of play. However, their arrogance backfires as the fast play and the pace of the Insurgents leads to a few goal-scoring opportunities.

15’ After a series of near misses, the Insurrectionists finally break the deadlock. Sloppy play by the defensive pair of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini leaves the Totalitarians trailing early on. 0-1.

20’ The Totalitarians wake up following the shock start, and concentrate their considerable offensive resources upon the muscular striking duo of Amauri and Vincenzo Iaquinta. A succession of stinging crosses is fired into the box guarded by the Insurrectionists, who have little in the way of defensive fortifications, relying instead upon one of the worst defensive trios in footballing history: Jean-Alain Boumsong, Titus Bramble and Vladimir Gresko.

23’ Despite a number of inviting opportunities, Amauri and Iaquinta struggle to find the net. Instead, their power and aimless shooting leads to high casualties among innocent bystanders in the crowd. Some foreign correspondents begin to define the Totalitarians’ tactics as indiscriminate violence against civilians.

25’ Following a scrappy but determined onslaught by the Totalitarians’ offensive machine, a a goalmouth scramble leads to an equaliser. 1-1.

28’ Bowing down to international pressure condemning their affiliations to the Ghaddafi regime, Juventus joins a number of reputable Western institutions in cutting all ties with Libya.

29’ Sensing the impending betrayal and deciding that a change of pace is in order, the Totalitarians’ management takes measures to pre-empt negative consequences to their side’s competitiveness. In the process, the entire line-up is revamped with foot soldiers of West African descent.

They are commanded by legendary playmakers Claude Makelele and Geremi Njitap, who have an immediate impact on dictating the tempo of the game. The changes are not restricted to the midfield, as the Totalitarians are joined by the finest airpower that Libyan oil can buy: a pacey and deadly striking partnership comprising of Samuel Eto’o and Emmanuel Adebayor. On the wings, Tijani Babangida and Celestine Babayaro supply quality assists in quantity.

36’ Predictably, the Insurrectionists’ defence is no match for Eto’o and Adebayor, and the Totalitarians occupy large swathes of the pitch in a very short time. Eventually, Eto’o clinically finishes off a well-placed Babangida cross. 2-1.

42’ The home side attempts to press home its advantage and kill off any hopes of an Insurrectionist comeback. Adebayor finds himself with a series of clear goalscoring chances, but is denied twice by the woodwork.

47’ The referee’s halftime whistle comes as a welcome respite to the visitors, who end the half in disarray, hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

Half-time Luckily for the Benghazi patrons, Sepp Blatter has been watching intently from the sidelines. He is dismayed by the one-sided contest and decides to intervene, encouraging decisive action by the international community. As a result, with the backing of its key member states, FIFA throws its hat into the ring in an unprecedented show of authority.

The June 11 National Stadium was left deserted at the half as fans, players and press alike escaped the scorching heat by seeking refuge in nearby bunkers come water stations.

First, FIFA curtails the Libyan regime’s ability to bring fresh legs onto the pitch, by imposing sanctions and asset freezes on Ghaddafi and his collaborators. Second, FIFA imposes a no-fly zone upon the Totalitarians in an attempt to neutralise Tripoli’s overwhelming aerial firepower.

Accordingly, the British, French, and Italians agree to supply Benghazi with the best anti-aircraft equipment available, in the form of John Terry, Philippe Mexes, Alessandro Nesta, and Gianluigi Buffon. Not to be outdone, the Americans provide the Insurrectionists with some firepower of their own: Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, and Charlie Davies.

58’ In the opening minutes of the second half, it is clear that the centre of gravity has shifted completely: the Insurrectionists now have the prerogative. After fending off a series of attempts by Eto’o, the Insurrectionists counterattack with their American strikers, and soon secure the much-needed equaliser. 2-2.

79’ The game becomes much more evenly-matched following Beasley’s equaliser. While the commitment and aggression on both sides is palpable, the teams are too balanced to allow a breakthrough. All that is accomplished in the latter stages of the second half is a flood of yellow cards, warning players not to overstep their tactical boundaries.

93’ The triple whistle of the referee rings out across Tripoli’s uncertain night. Despite an entertaining match, there is no cheer in the stands: both sets of supporters know that there can only be one winner tonight. On to extra time.

97’ The first half of extra time begins much like the second half ended: the stalemate endures. The strikers continue to probe the respective defences, but neither side can find a weak point in the other’s fortifications. Despite all the foreign assistance, the Insurrectionists are still unable to gain the upper hand.

99’ In an attempt to break the deadlock, the UK, France and Italy (in accordance with the mandate outlined by FIFA) deploy special advisers on the ground to take control of the Benghazi team’s tactical configurations. In a last-ditch attempt to take home the victory, the Insurrectionists demote their coaching staff, who must now obey orders from a trio of prominent strategists comprising of Marcello Lippi, Raymond Domenech, and Steve McClaren.

107’ As the second half of extra time gets underway, the Totalitarians rally. While international sanctions have starved them of fresh talent, and while Nesta & Co. continue to keep Eto’o and Adebayor at bay, Tripoli’s infantry, directed by Makelele, is unaffected by the no-fly zone. At the same time, the three foreign coaches of the Insurrectionists squabble among themselves with regard to the best tactic to employ. On the pitch, it remains unclear who retains the leadership of the entire operation.

And this is where our narrative stops. At the time of writing, the Libyan Crisis continues to hang in the balance. An expansion of the FIFA mandate could undoubtedly secure the services of world-class artillery, such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The British and French are also preparing some of their finest equipment, in the form of Wayne Rooney and Franck Ribery. Yet the international community has been unable to make a decision and the crisis drags on.

We are now into the 108th minute of this tragic saga, with only twelve to go before a sudden-death penalty shoot-out. If it does come to that, it is very likely that the Insurrectionists will blink first and, absent their foreign protectors, face the fierce consequences of their rebellious actions.

Stay tuned.


  1. May 5, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    Enjoyable read. Very Articulate.
    If dictators managed football….

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