As the buzz surrounding FIFA's January visit begins to fade, the global vote for Egypt gets stronger. Inas Mazhar looks at the supporters, and assesses the benefits the World Cup would bring
Egyptian fans in Australia
When talk of Egypt's bid file first hit the media last year, the attention was high -- the public and critics clamouring to assess the likelihood of clinching this prestigious event. The file was discussed, the country's plans were laid out, and anticipation for the landmark visit instantaneously began to mount.
The FIFA delegation visit to Egypt came in the last week of January, marking the five-man team's final stop amongst the five 2010 candidate hosts (South Africa, Libya-Tunis, Morocco). The eight- day Egypt tour took them to the eight hosting cities, during which they inspected everything from the stadiums, infrastructure and transportation, to the local enthusiasm and 2010 zeal. The country that week, was effervescing with the spirit of Twenty-Ten -- not unlike, one can assume, the other bidding nations.
The week is considered the crux of the 15 May FIFA decision as to which country will host the Cup. The five men are said to return to their headquarters, assess their findings, pass the files on to the FIFA executive committee, and then from then until May each country's file is dissected for future promise. In past years, nations have been known to halt the preparations and World Cup hype once the committee was gone. Morocco is perhaps the most infamous example; its first bid came four World Cups ago. Twelve years later, their infrastructure and stadiums remained unchanged -- they didn't win, and so everything "World Cup" came to a halt. The FIFA visit is alleged by the critics to have been the brake.
In Egypt, however, the excitement only builds; both in the country and around the world. The youth of Egypt's Germany University and German schools made contact with their German counterparts -- the Arab and African communities in Germany -- in an effort to start a full-fledged bid in the country secured with the hosting of the next World Cup (2006). The result was clear to the Egyptian file committee on their recent Germany visit; Egypt's red-black-and-white Horus eye logo had spread to German universities, corporations and transportation companies, and the German's greeted the team with unprecedented warmth. The initiative was headed by Germany-based Khalid Hussein and Hassan Zein El-Abidin, president of the Arab-German friendship association.
In another part of the globe, the bid flag filled the stands when Egypt's international Tae kwondo referee Lt Colonel Yasser Hussein Gouda made sure the South American's shared in the Egyptian spirit. While officiating at the South America qualifications for the Olympic Games, Gouda did his part by distributing Egypt-logo paraphernalia. Perhaps it is the South American warmth and passion that connected them to the Egyptian crowd, for from day one they were spotted, en masse, hoisting the Egyptian flag.
What brought even more smiles to the Egyptian bid team behind the scenes and doing much hard promotion and organisation work, was the vocalised support of South Africa's Cassie Carstens, president of the International Sports Coalition, senior official of "The Kids' Game" programme, and sponsor of South Africa's national rugby team, expressed his "deep admiration of the Egyptian people's will and determination" to host FIFA World Cup 2010.
"In South Africa, we pay a lot of money to promote our bid file," he told an international gathering last month. "But I was surprised that here in Egypt you pray to win the honour of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2010."
Cassie spoke during the opening session of the International Training Conference for members of "The Kids' Game" programme -- an international "Olympics" for children aged six to 14. This year's event, which was held on the expansive grounds of Cairo's Evangelical church, brought together 1200 participants from 17 countries alongside Egypt, namely: USA., South Africa, Zambia, Australia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, United Arab of Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, India, China, Austria, and Hong Kong. Egypt was amongst the first of the countries to join the programme in 2000.
And also on home turf, 38 African diplomats attending an English training course declared their support of the Egyptian bid. The diplomats -- representing Mauritius, Botswana, Mozambique, Djibouti, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Eritrea and Ghana -- toured the bid headquarters with candidacy file head Hisham Azmy. As they left the building, they signed their "Yes to Egypt" cards and slotted them in the ballot box.
In the privacy of Youth Minister Dr Alieddin Hilal's office, Kuwait's minister of information and former president of the Kuwaiti Olympic Committee, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahd Al-Sabah, made the same gesture. Sheikh Ahmed went on to voice his opinion on Egypt being "the strongest and most competent country among the competitors to host football's most elite event."
While the diversity of international supporters is clearly reflected on every continent, at home, things equally as rich.
In one of the country's multi-religious dialogues -- a seminar entitled "For Egypt Love" -- Egypt's most prominent religious figures announced their full support of the Egyptian bid file.
Sheikh Al- Azhar Mohamed Said Tantawy, Pope Shenouda III, the Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Apostolic See of St Mark, said they would work together towards fulfilling the will, determination and the dream of the nation in order to ensure an outstanding fiesta. Minister Hilal, Sheikh Tantawi and Pope Shenouda all reiterated their commitment to bringing together the diverse peoples of the world together in unity on Egyptian soil.