Eleven years ago an incident on the soccer pitch in Benghazi foreshadowed the Libyan revolution.
Spiegel’s Juliane von Mittelstaedt describes what happened when Saadi Qaddafi’s Al-Ahly Tripoli SC received too many favours from the ref in a match against Al-Ahly Benghazi SC:
“It was the typical story,” [former player Chalifa Binsrati] says. “The opposing team was being awarded one penalty kick after another.” In their everyday lives, the people of Benghazi were used to putting up with injustices. But now they had had enough.
“The entire stadium was against Saadi,” Binsraiti says. “Everyone had a relative or a friend in prison, and everyone knew someone who had been killed or stripped of their property.”
“Benghazi hated the Gadhafis,” Binsraiti adds. “But, on that day, it hated Saadi in particular.”
The men in the stadium began to boo, and the booing grew into a roar. A crowd of hundreds stormed the field and spilled out into the streets. They burned posters of Gadhafi and set the local office of the Libyan Football Federation on fire. At one point, someone dressed a donkey in a jersey with Saadi Gadhafi’s number on it.
This soccer riot resulted in the imprisonment and torture of dozens of Benghazi players and fans. Their stadium was torn down and for years the club was disbanded.
In 2011 Benghazi was the city that Qaddafi theatened to destroy, prompting NATO intervention.
Some rebels reportedly wore Benghazi jerseys to the front line.
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