Sunday 22nd January 2006
The tournament is now well underway and regarded as a success here in Egypt with deserved praise being given for the opening ceremony. However claims that Egypt is in the grip of football fever and that grounds are packed to capacity much to the delight of the organising committee, seem somewhat hollow in reality.
The Cairo International Stadium can be reached by taking the Metro to Kubri-el-Qubi, then cross the tracks and follow the flyover for a walk of around 20 minutes. I did this and still made it to the stadium before 4 p. m. on the opening day and sure enough the majority of the crowd were already there.I spoke to someone who got in at 4.15, but haven’t heard whether or not the gates were closed at any time. It was noticeable that the ground hardly filled up after this time as seats were left vacant for the participants of the opening ceremony. The Libyan section, whilst boasting a strong contingent of around 2,000 had room for many more.
There have been arrangements made to fill the grounds in Egypt by the same organising committee that issued the above statement. The people doing this are instantly recognisable by the different colours, they are wearing. Just think of the seats in Portugal, but this time they are human beings, conducted from the front of the stand. At last nights DR Congo v Togo game there was a constant din, in front of what was a crowd of around 4,000 interested spectators and maybe 7 or 8,000 members of rent a crowd. Who were of course making lots of noise totally out of keeping with what was happening on the pitch.
Looking back on the last few days I was interested to read some comments in the Egyptian press. – Mido ‘the terrible’. (I know he missed a penalty, was substituted and hadn’t scored in the previous two Nations Cups, but I feel they were a bit harsh on him!
Then there was the case of the Libya’s Brazilian keeper, Agustini. Who showed his Latin temperament to get sent off. If only he had kept quiet they wouldn’t have known he was Brazilian and he might have stayed on.
As for my tickets , and hence the ire. I returned to the Ministry of Youth expecting to walk in and walk out. It wasn’t to be. The warning signs were there when I was immediately offered a cup of coffee. I was able to talk to other spectators and members of the media that I had also seen the previous day. So I wasn’t the only one having problems. After three hours and one orange juice my remaining tickets, somewhat bedraggled were produced. By this time it was 1.15 and kick off for the Morocco v Ivory Coast was 2. Faced with no choice I had to give in and get the taxi there.