Site Logo  African Champions
The mother of all parties. All caused by a small leather ball hitting a synthetic net suspended from an arrangement of metal bars.
The fairy story continued in style here, whatever the Italians can do, the Egyptians can do better. And they did. Most city roads in Cairo take a while to drive down at the best of times, but after Mohamed Abo Treka’s goal against Cameroon in the African Nations Cup Final, February 2008, the whole of Cairo emptied onto the streets to block them with their hearts and souls, and forget, for one night only, that the price of food was rising to uncomfortable levels. And it was a party that no country on Earth deserved more. For Egyptians, as I soon learned, are very special people.
These photos were only the climactic end of the party. Egypt was buzzing from the first goal of the first game, a match they won 4-2 against Cameroon, who they would meet again in the final. It’s difficult to say if the nature of this victory over one of the pre-tournament favourites set them up for the eventual victory, but it raised hopes and spirits across Cairo, and Egypt in general.

Qualifying for the tournament was less than impressive and the defending champions came into the tournament anything but favourites. More fancied nations included Nigeria and Ghana, and Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast who we beat in the semi-final in a truly amazing game which saw the Chelsea man’s co-strikers miss a sackful of half chances each of which could so easily have turned the game. In the end it finished 4-1 to Egypt, a quadruplet of well taken goals on the break.

I watched the semi-final with Khaled, one of my students and friends who is one of the few people to get a mention on this site. He also took me to see Al Ahly play in the African Champions League final late in 2007 (we lost) and to one of their final games of the Egyptian domestic 2006/07 season when we could only manage a 1-1 draw with Ismailia. But they won the championship the same, and I was very pleased for him. Like all Egyptians he works very hard and if football makes it all worthwhile then maybe it is more than a game after all.

But although I tend to have more interest in club football and have fond memories of my clubs Crewe and Roma’s prouder moments, these have tended to lead to celebration I’ve had to find ways of having on my own. Italy winning the World Cup cup was the happiest moment in that blessed land for decades (since 1982 I imagine, when they last won it). And I don’t care what the it’s-just-a-game brigade say, this simple game of kickabout brought a 60-million-strong country together in a state of unparalled mutual delirium. And so it was in Egypt, only probably the smile was even wider, the shouts even louder, and the sense of pride even deeper.

It wasn’t easy to watch the game as I was scheduled to be teaching. Three students turned up, I’ll have to be honest and say I was disappointed, we’d been told that if nobody came we could go, but my disappointment was short-lived when they told me that the football was on in the reception area and they wanted to see it. So we drifted in and out, me with my flag (you can NOT watch and support a team in an international football final without a flag), and with twenty-five minutes to go it was obvious we weren’t going to learn very much English, so we joined the crowd of people watching.

But what if it rains, Sir?

Nil-nil seemed to last forever. Egypt were slightly the better side, but in spite of hitting the post once had very few clear chances. Cameroon had tightened up since the first game, but were still no threat, Eto’o rendered virtually impotent by the Pharaohs’ defence.
It took a counter attack and a lot of determined spirit to break the deadlock. Oh, and a dodgy back pass. Mohamed Zidan chased the pass down and wrestled it (fairly) away from the last man before knocking it across into the path of the revered Mohamed Abo Treka whose gift to his nation can not be done justice in words.
Match Highlights
And what followed was also quite fun too, as you can see.