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Football derby reunites Libyans in the capital Tripoli

Football fans gather at the Martyrs' Square of Libya's capital Tripoli on April 17, 2022   -  
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Dozens of football fans took to the Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya, a vast space in the heart of the capital, on Sunday evening for a derby pitting Al-Ittihad vs Al-Ahly football club.

The match brought together fans from different political divides despite the current crisis pitting the east and the south of Libya.

The match was played behind closed doors in Benghazi, as the north African country has been experiencing renewed tension between rival camps for several weeks.

"If the match was in Benghazi, I would be scared to go there because there is still a bit of discrimination, so I am afraid to be there just as if I was abroad. I would feel safer walking in Tunis, unfortunately unlike if I was in the city of Benghazi," said Mokhtar Mohamed, an Al-Ittihad fan.

While the coastal road linking the two cities reopened last year, travel has been deemed very dangerous given the high level of tension and numerous armed groups present in the area.

For Libyans, the match symbolized unity and further meant the country is experiencing the peace that has lacked for more than a decade after the ouster of the former longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

"It is a major thing for Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahly to play a match together and for other countries to witness that and know that Libya is safe and that we would be capable of watching a match together at the stadium while maintaining a nice atmosphere," said Hashad Faysal, an Al-Ahly Tripoli fan

In December, persistent disputes led to the indefinite postponement of both the presidential and parliamentary elections, on which the international community had high hopes of finally stabilizing the vast North African country. After missing this electoral deadline, Libya has had two rival prime ministers since February.

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