Will to win
With just a few weeks to the naming of the African host for the 2010 World Cup finals, the rivalry between the five competing nations reaches its climax. Inas Mazhar
Even though international commentators have tipped South Africa or Morocco to win the 15 May vote in Zurich, Sports Minister Alieddin Hilal insists these remarks will not dampen the enthusiasm which has been the hallmark of Egypt's global campaign.
"I still believe we have our chances. Nothing would stop us from going on," Hilal said. "We have an obligation to our people and we can't let them down because of rumours. Ordinary Egyptians have become more enthusiastic than us about the bid."
The date of 15 May one which has been etched into the mind of every Egyptian football lover, as their desire to host football's premier event grows as the day of decision draws closer. And certainly nothing will stop the nation from charging ahead on that mission.
"The whole nation will be patiently waiting for the result and we have to accept it anyway," an optimistic Hilal said. "It's a tough fight but we stand on strong grounds.
"If we win, that day would be the most important date of not just our sports history, but that of the country in general."
But many commentators are of the opinion that the previous bidding experience of South Africa and Morocco, respectively making their second and fourth attempts, gives them a head start over Egypt that is making its first one.
That view holds little water with Hilal.
"Yes, it is our first attempt, but a powerful one. Egypt has it all -- we can throw a good party, host a great event and we've definitely got some of the best venues around. But most importantly, we are doing this for our country, regardless of whether or not we get the 2010 event. This is for our own national development," the minister said, reiterating a national commitment he has voiced many times before.
Hilal is careful not to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the other four candidates, which includes Libya and Tunisia.
"One of our commitments is not to criticise other candidates. We have to assess everyone's strengths and weaknesses, but criticism gets nowhere."
A former political science professor, he acknowledges that when FIFA's executive committee vote in a month's time, the winner's good fortune might be based on political expedience rather than merit.
"We are campaigning well on the international level, but we don't really know who would support us. It's a tough fight," he says. "What we are doing now, is focussing on our goal, and focussing on why Egypt should win, and how it can win, and how we will win."