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“Please correct news regarding Mohamed Talaat, national team player. The writing on the t-shirt isn’t remotely related to Hebrew. It’s Japanese, written in Katakana letters. The ad is for the Coca Cola Company.”

Talaat in the infamous Coca Cola ad. -From Gemyhoood's twitpic.

Talaat in the infamous Coca Cola ad. -From Gemyhoood's twitpic.

I received this email on Thursday morning from Mr. Essam Galal, who identified himself as a Japanese-language translator and tour guide. He also works for Japanese TV in Cairo. Sent to a number of journalists, the email is a response to the media campaign that targeted Talaat, following Egypt’s loss to Costa Rica on Tuesday in the U20 World Cup round of 16.

Many blogs, forums, and online commentators have already echoed what Galal said: The writing isn’t in Hebrew, ignoramuses; it’s Japanese.

Yet the calls seem to be falling on deaf ears. Obviously, the war is on.

The ad has been running since before the tournament started, but it was only after Egypt lost to Costa Rica, crashing out of the World Cup, that the campaign to vilify Talaat found a place in the media.

We lost on Oct. 6, and on Oct. 7, Al-Haya Al-Youm was already running a segment on it.

Ahh, we lost because Talaat was wearing a t-shirt with Hebrew inscriptions. Of course, what else? Silly me, I thought we lost because of grave defensive errors and the inability of the technical staff to shuffle the formation in accordance with the Costa Rican team’s.

Like what happened after the senior team lost to the United States in the Confederations Cup, accusing them of bringing prostitutes to their hotel rooms on the night before the game (based on a tabloid report), now the junior team must face the same fate.

Like the senior team in June in South Africa, the U20 team played really bad on Oct. 6 in Cairo. I was at the stadium and it was frustrating to see them display such below-par performance.

But that’s it. Nothing more.

They lost because they played bad, not because they are degenerate or evil. Not because they are spies, sellouts, or whatever this campaign is trying to suggest.

There is no need to follow the trend of finding a non-football related issue to vilify the players through. There’s a lot to criticize in their performance on the pitch, and focusing on that would help them get on the right track.

But crying like five-year-olds who didn’t get their ice cream doesn’t help anyone. Fans at the stadium expressed their frustration and disappointment by throwing water bottles on the pitch after the game, a negative point in assessing Egypt’s organization of the tournament. So not only did our national team lose, but Egypt as an organizer could be in trouble as well.

The same destructive attitude is what is fueling the campaign against Talaat. It’s a reminder of what Amr Adib did with the senior team, holding a printout of a South African tabloid as proof of how the players’ “debauchery” was responsible for Egypt’s loss. The tabloid ran an apology to the Egyptian team later on and Adib half-heartedly followed suit.

Frustration is never an excuse for smear campaigns.

The Coca Cola ad: