Tension in the hours before Algeria-Egypt match

Palpable. That’s the word of the day. The final qualifier between Algeria and Egypt is being played at 7.30pm local time today, in Sudan. Because it’s not in the Cairo stadium, like Wednesday’s match, when Egypt managed to stave off defeat to go to a rematch, there’s less traffic clogging the streets as we saw when fans poured into the stadium early. Instead, last night, in the dead of night, we spotted buses packed with fans heading down to Sudan.

Word is the Sudanese have waived the usual visa restrictions for Egyptian fans. I heard that tickets cost LE500 (about A$100) but the black market snapped them up and spat them out again for LE2500 (A$500).

TV shows happy Sudanese people rooting for Egypt…but then again, that WAS Egyptian TV. The news wires report that Sudan is “overwhelmingly supportive” of Algeria.

The sport shows have been full of claims and counterclaims of violence: the Algerian team was allegedly attacked in their bus in the airport on arrival into Cairo on Wednesday, and three players appeared on the pitch sporting head bandages. But the driver of the bus said it was all nonsense, that there were a few people managing to sling some mud at the bus, but the team themselves smashed the windows to paint Egypt in a bad light.

Also for a few brief minutes were reports in the Algerian online press of 11 people killed at Cairo stadium at the Wednesday match. The stories were quickly whipped down, but not before they’d travelled the world. Egypt is full of righteous indignation. They know they could lose the chance to attend the 2010 World Cup if FIFA decides they can’t control their fanatical fans.

So it’s four hours to kick-off and the drums are ready…

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.

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