Thursay, 26th January 2006
Whilst watching one game I was befriended by a local, who I noticed had a small dark patch on the middle of his forehead, I thought nothing of this, at the time.
During conversation he asked if I knew about Allah, concentrating on the game I explained that I didn’t know about Islam. In response to this he turned to face me and made it clear that it was his job to tell me all I needed to know. Again that was easy – I was watching the match and didn’t need to know anything.
He wouldn’t let go.”You must know about Islam, what is you religion?” Still being serious at this stage I tried to explain that I was not religious, but he was having none of it. ”OK, I am an atheist, an agnostic.” He wouldn’t let it lie. At this time the Guinea fans were entering the Tunisian end and amusing everyone with their antics and colourful costumes. Joining in the hilarity I confessed, ”my religion is football”.
”OK, so do you know about Mohammed?”
“Mohammed, the prophet!”
”Profit. Yes I know he’s been to a few clubs over time, I’m sure a profit has been made.”
By now the Guinean fans were packed into our section and we were having to stand to follow the game. The section was overflowing but there was a carnival atmosphere. He looked distinctly worried by the scenes of chaos unfolding in front of him. Seconds later it began to rain, this quelled the crowd and sent some dashing for cover beneath the stand. He turned round once again and said “See Mohammed made it rain for safety”
”Do you have a mobile phone?” (A question I am often asked. )
”Why are you going to call him?”
No explanation was given, to this and I can only assume that Mohammed has a premium line phone number that is a good money earner here in Egypt.
Relieved once again that I did not have a phone, he continued to look for an angle that he could engage me in conversation.
Finally he invited me for a cup of tea after the match finished, I declined his offer and held back on inviting him for a beer.
Later I noticed more and more Egyptians with a mark on their forehead, after wondering why this was I now have come to the conclusion that is a carpet burn, from overdoing the praying.
Egypt’s performance against Morocco has emphasised the fact that this is a difficult group to qualify from, despite not scoring a goal the Moroccans have played well and could have won both games. Whilst Egypt fear the physical presence of the Ivorians.
During the half time break at the Morocco game the prayer booths in the stadium were subject to a heavy police presence as Egyptians swarmed into them and called on help from Allah to see their team win.
Those booths are going to be even busier today (Saturday 28th) as Egypt will need all the help they can get to secure a win that sees them into the Quarter Finals and avoid meeting Cameroon.