If you wanted to tear through the congested Cairo streets at 200km/hour, last night would have been a good time to do it, as 20 million people were all glued to the TV or at the football stadium in Alexandria as the reigning champions of Egyptian soccer, El Ahly, played the young guns of Ismalia. It was billed as a match between youth and experience. El Ahly scored in the fifth minute, the ball headed in by Flavio, the player they call, rightly, the Golden Head. In the crowd, boys pulled off their bright red Ahly shirts leapt up and down in unison. The crowd was a sea of red, a marked absence of the blue and yellow of Ismalia. Other giants of El Ahly included Wael Gomma, who looks suspiciously like Vin Diesel, and the god of football, Abu Treka, widely tipped to do all the scoring.I was half listening to the commentary while I worked and thought, How impartial is this commentator? Then I realized, it’s El Ahly TV (yes, the football team has its own TV station). So what do you think? Even I could it work out, cos the commentator yelled ‘mabrook’ (congratulations) on every forced offside and foul.El Ahly won, 0-1, the captain, Shady, climbed up on the goal posts, goading his fans on to get louder, and the station showed its colours…“Your sympathy is not enough,” said the (totally partial) commentator in the glitter-laden post-match dissection of other teams in the league who were supporting Ismalia in a bid to end El Ahly’s iron grip on the league. “You can compete with us, but you can’t take it.” Humility, obviously, is not a quality prized in the Egyptian league.
About the author
Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad, and occasionally I chat on radio, too, from Essentials Magazine to 3AW or the Irish Times.