Quite a Monday in Africa, on the way to the World Cup. I was lucky enough to find out that the Egyptian Cup Final was going to be played tonight in the 75,000 capacity Cairo International Stadium. Lucky me! Egypt will not be in South Africa even though they are African champions and the best team, defeated in Khartoum in a play-off by Algeria.
Al-Ahly, which means National in Arabic have between 40 to 50 million fans and are the CAF 'African Team of The Century'. They have appeared in the FIFA Club World Cup three times and won 3rd place in 2006. Thirty five times winners of both the Egyptian League and also the Egyptian Cup. Their opponents tonight were the underdogs, Harasel Hodood, from up the Nile, north in Alexandria.
First of all though, some SERIOUS sightseeing. The Egyptian Museum is a treasure trove of 4,500 years of history, full of mummys, more gold items than on Rodeo Drive, King Tut, chariots, ancient boats, clothes, and enough to take a week if you gave it it's due.
. The whole Giza plateau is immense so I did a deal with a taxi driver for 40 Egyptian pounds, about $8.US I think. He promised me 3 hours to see everything. Quite a bargain, but I was getting tired. We drove up a hill for a splendid panorama of 3 pyramids and then I got to inspect dozens of stinking camels. Next was my present to myself. Photos on a camel of my choice with the background of The Great Pyramid. I was also trying to win a competition for my favourite local pub The Three Hulats and a photo of their T shirt the furthest away from UK in the J.D Wetherspoons company competition
Then we were off to The Sphnix, 30 meters high 80 metres long. It is a recumbent feline with a human head. Possibly pharoah Khafre, 1,400 BC but there are sphinxes all over, including one in Turkey from 9,500 BC.
Back to the Cup Final. I managed my way in past 4 check points without a ticket, flashing a Press Pass. At the main VIP gate I had problems. I worked my way up to the official with the most gold braid, VERY tight security 10 minutes to kick off!!. I then saw a guy in an elegantly tailored suit, with an aid with himas they stepped of a limousine . Last chance! He spoke great English and took me inside. I asked whether he was a sponsor, a TV star or a politician. He said he was an army officer. What rank I asked? He replied that he sort of ran the whole army!!!
I was inside the VIP section. All leather backed seats and arm rests. All taken, so I joined hundreds others sitting in the marble gangways. Al-Ahly had two thirds of the two tier stadium and it rocked. They are in red and their opponents changed to white and black shorts. Their fans were dressed in either orange or in lime green for some reason.
It was a great match refereed by a neutral German referee team. Defences ruled but there were some shots hitting the bar and the posts. Just on half-time Harasel scored with a header and the stadium went quiet. During the break I went to a cool lounge. I had a choice, join the dozens on the large red prayer mat facing Mecca, or line-up for an ice cold Pepsi at the bar.. I chose the Pepsi.!!The second half was goalless until added time when The Red Devils equalised. Fans around me grabbed each other,including me, put children on their heads and climbed all over the plush seats.
Extra time and then the dreaded penalty kicks. Al-Ahly missed the second, all the other shots went in and the underdogs won the cup.