Tripoli, 4 July:
If, for the first time in the history of the competition, Libya wins the Arab Nations Cup on Friday . . .[restrict]evening, the effect on the election the next day is going to be electric.
United in their joy at their success, voters will go to the polling booths with a serious extra spring in their step. They will know that having achieved one fine victory for the New Libya and they are about to win another, even greater triumph.
This second victory however, will not just be gained by the members of the national team and their coach Abdulhafeed Arbich, but rather, one achieved by every every single Libyan who has registered to vote. Regardless of the outcome of the ballot, regardless of who ends up holding what seats in the new assembly, Libya itself will be the winner, on a massive scale.
There is of course the possibility that Morocco, a very good and experienced team, will overcome the raw energy and sheer enthusiasm of our players, whose training has been so challenging in the aftermath of the 17 February revolution.
Nevertheless, voters on Saturday will know that even second place in the Cup will be an outstanding achievement. It was 1964 that the Libya team last finished in this position, reaching third place two years later and thereafter never showing on the podium.
In the end of course, whatever the popular elation or dejection after Friday night’s Cup Final, football is only a game. And sporting purists still do argue that it is not the winning that matters, but the taking part.
And that’s just the point about Saturday.
The reality is that in taking part in the day’s historic free election, every Libyan voter is scoring the most important goal of his or her life.
Democracy offers no quick fix for Libya’s many ills. The newly-elected government will face serious and difficult challenges. But as every Libyan voter has painful cause to know, everything that democracy promises is infinitely better than life under a dictatorship. [/restrict]