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Gaza boycott: Calls for Egypt's Al Ahly to end Coca-Cola contract over alleged Israel links

Al Ahly SC faces a boycott campaign after a senior official called on fans to buy club merchandise with Coca-Cola brand
Fans of Al Al Ahly team raise the Palestinian flag during the African Football League semi-final match between Al-Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns FC, at Cairo International Stadium, Egypt, 1 November 2023 (Ayman Aref/NurPhoto/via Reuters)
Fans of Al Al Ahly raise the Palestinian flag during the African Football League semi-final match with Mamelodi Sundowns FC, at Cairo International Stadium, Egypt, 1 November 2023 (Ayman Aref/NurPhoto/via Reuters)
By MEE correspondent in Cairo

Egypt's Al Ahly sports club is facing mounting pressure to sever its ties with Coca-Cola due to the latter's alleged links to Israel, which has waged a devastating war on the Gaza Strip since October.

A boycott campaign has gone viral on social media as part of a larger boycott movement in Egypt against businesses and brands that are accused of backing Israel's continuous onslaught in Gaza.

Fans are calling on Al Ahly to end its contract with the soft drink giant following the circulation of images of the club's players and logo on Coca-Cola cans.

Other major companies caught up in the boycott include Starbucks and McDonald's.

The head of the club's football company Adly Al-Qiai sparked outcry in Egypt when he insisted in a video that supporters buy club items with the Coca-Cola brand and other sponsors because they want to help the club.

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Some of the club's fans called for a boycott of the team, its games, and all associated activities until the club's contracts with both the soft drink firm and the Lipton Tea Company were terminated.

Under the hashtag #Boycott_Ahly on social media, one user posted, "I will permanently stop supporting #Al-Ahly and all sponsors associated with it… My [Gaza] brothers are more important to me than you".

Using the same hashtag, another user said: “We stay silent when children fall asleep, not when they are being killed.”

Middle East Eye contacted Coca-Cola Egypt for comment on the boycott campaign but received no response by the time of publication.

Al-Qiai told the Egyptian media on Thursday: “This is a targeted campaign, and I know who's behind it… I won't listen to these criticisms. Al Ahly doesn't need to defend itself because it's a patriotic club that sticks with the state.”

A source in the media office of Al-Ahly club, who preferred not to be named, told MEE that the deal between the Al-Ahly club and Coca-Cola was signed before the current Israeli war, and any cancellation on the part of the club would result in penalties.

Coca-Cola continues to be one of the club's primary sponsors, he added. 

The value of the contract with the soft drink company has not been disclosed.

Al Ahly has a big fan base in Gaza, which is only 348 km away from the club’s headquarters in the Egyptian capital.

The club is the most successful in Egypt and Africa and has this year won its 11th Africa Champions title and 43rd Egyptian Premiere League title. The club has also been voted Africa's Club of the Century. 

BDS boosts local products

Millions of Egyptians have joined a campaign - now in its seventh month - against major corporations tied to Israel and listed by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Instead, they have chosen to buy local goods, massively boosting the local economy in the Arab country. 

In a video that went viral on X, formerly known as Twitter, Al Ahly supporters at the African volleyball final were seen chanting: “We are boycotting Coca-Cola. We have not forgotten the [Palestinian] cause."

The BDS movement put Coca-Cola on its list of firms to boycott because activists say the bottling company has factories in illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, violating international law.

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In 2013, it was reported that Israeli-developed technology was being used to print the labels on hundreds of millions of bottles of the soft drink.

Ahmed Albordeny, who has been supporting Al Ahly for over 25 years, told MEE that the boycott campaign is bigger than both the Al Ahly club and its administration.

“However, as an Al Ahly fan, I understand the administration's decision to not terminate the contract with Coca-Cola and Lipton.

"Egypt's sports administrations are always searching for ways to improve the club's finances, and it is challenging to give up any of these revenues,” he added.

He noted that, while he firmly supports the boycott campaigns, he says Al Ahly has taken a positive stand from the first day of the war on the Gaza Strip “by supporting our brothers in the [Gaza Strip] and sending humanitarian convoys in the name of the club, and it is the only club to do so.”

“Al Ahly has also donated revenue from some matches to Gaza,” Albordeny added.

The Israeli army has been bombing Gaza since 7 October resulting in the killing of more than 42,500 Palestinians, including 10,091 women and 15,780 children.

Despite the Egyptian government's heavy-handed response to protests, the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza has prompted many Egyptians to protest the war and call for a ceasefire, the opening of the Rafah Crossing with Gaza, and the end of the occupation.

In recent months, dozens of pro-Palestine protesters have also been detained, including journalists, lawyers, and women rights defenders.

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