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 Pkv 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 4p.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,ooo 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 Libyas 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.
AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS – Ministry of Youth
You knew, I knew, that it just wouldn’t be simple to collect the tickets.
After various problems ordering the tickets online as I was told my browser not compatible. I ended up placing the order from Tokyo, and then having opted for the package available for each ground I realised when I counted the number of match tickets I had ordered that I was 2 short. Yes I had only ordered 30 instead of 32.
A quick check and I realised that I had initially forgotten the one off games that are to take place in Ismailia and Alexandria Stadium, so I placed a further order after the deadline for Internet orders had passed, this time I encountered no problems, when I expected the order to be rejected.
The information I received was that tickets would be posted to Egyptian addresses and that everyone else would have to collect their tickets from The Ministry of Youth, in Cairo. I set off early this morning to find the building my request for directions was met with the address being sent back to me – Floor 11, Meet Okba 26 July Street, Cairo, Egypt. Now I could have hailed the nearest Taxi and given him this address, but no I decided to follow the map and head off for 26 July Street. The street itself looks to be at least two mile long but for some reason I felt it was the other side of the river and so from the Nile Hilton I walked up the Corniche and met 26 July Street. It proved to be a busy dual carriageway which was at times elevated. I stuck to the roads at it’s side and kept going, over the island in the middle of the nile. Just when I when I felt the Zaragoza syndrome coming on (A sense that you ought to give up looking and jump in a taxi after all. But then find the taxi driver tells you to get out and walk as the building is right in front of you) I spotted a sand coloured block , (they are all sand coloured, it would appear they have given up fighting with the elements and that all buildings just merge with the landscape) with the words Ministry of Youth draped at the top.
Walking round I could not see an invitiing entrance as it appeared there was no one around. I then spotted an elderly gentleman sitting in a gatehouse between us, a firmly closed gate. I beckoned him over with my best egyptian “Can you help me”, and showed him my football schedule. He opened the gate and told me it was the 11th Floor. Eureka.
Arriving on the 11th Floor, ther were a handful of people there. At first I was asked who had sent me, and then why was I here. I explained to three volunteers that I was here to collect tickets. They beckoned me to sit down and said that this would be sorted later. After some 30 minutes a gentleman asked me for my order he took one look and said no, not today! I explained that I at least needed the ticket for todays game. He went away again and came back with some 20 odd tickets and told me to come back tomorrow for the rest.
As I talked with the volunteers I found out that Hosni Mubarak, the president would be attending todays game. He would be arriving at 5p.m and the gates of the stadium would be shut at 4! The game kicks off at 7 o’clock.
I also asked the volunteers for advice on how to get to the stadium their immediate reply was, get a taxi. We’ll see……