Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 June 2006
Issue No. 798
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Even without Egypt, World Cup still a huge attraction

Although Egypt did not qualify for the World Cup, Egyptians are nevertheless as excited as if the country had, writes Inas Mazhar

Click to view caption
A giant screen for a huge championship


Lion king

How we envy the World Cup?

The plane truth

The greatest

Loss to Spain

Preparations are ongoing across the country as the public gears up to watch the 64 World Cup matches which begin tomorrow.

So far, the issue of broadcasting the matches live from Germany remains unresolved. The main TV rights holder ART is refusing to give the signal to non-right holders. And despite an announcement several weeks ago by FIFA President Sepp Blatter that the world can watch the opening, two semi-finals and final live on public TV, global TV stations and ART, among other subscription stations, have failed to reach an agreement.

Egyptians will be able to watch the matches if they are subscribed to ART which launched luxurious offers to its subscribers, or watch on other satellite channels which have bought the rights.

Up until a few days ago, Egyptian TV said it was still negotiating with the right holders who said they will be giving Egyptian TV's Channel 2 a 25-minute summary, and of only 25 of the 64 matches.

Accordingly, the last few weeks have witnessed an increase in subscriptions. Whoever finds one offer expensive has the option of buying a normal satellite dish that shows German channels which, being the host, will broadcast live.

Ali Nour, a salesman at a satellite company, says the demand for dishes has been great. "People are so excited about the World Cup and are not willing to take the risk to see if Egyptian TV will show the games. In order to be on the safe side, they have decided to buy a satellite dish and in particular the one that broadcasts the European channels, the majority of whom have bought the rights."

Nour said the increase in sales had tired him and his co-workers out after having to install several dishes every day. "We work for long hours these days."

Most Egyptians love to watch football in groups but some prefer to watch alone. "I can't watch a football match alone, especially if it is a World Cup," says Ashraf Marzouk, an engineer. "I would prefer to watch it with a group of friends either at home or in a café or restaurant.

"If you can't be there in the stadium, then you have to have a similar ambiance, like people shouting and reacting with the match."

Rifaat Ismail, an accountant, prefers to watch the World Cup matches alone at home in complete silence. "I like to concentrate on the match. I sit on the sofa, hold my Nescafe and watch in silence, and the whole household knows that. My children are grownups and like football so they join me but when they were young, I used to send them with their mother to visit their grandparents or any relatives when there was a match so I could watch in peace."

Cafes, restaurants and hotels have all prepared offers for the public and tourists to follow the World Cup. Cafes have prepared special menus for the matches which change daily. They could include a daily rate watching all matches with drinks and sometimes dinner if a match continues to a late hour. Other packages include watching a match with a drink. In all cases, you have to pay to watch.

"It's not like normal days or even when we're showing the national league matches or even the African Nations Cup," says Ibrahim Shaaban, a café owner. "It's the World Cup and we have made a subscription, so we have to get our money back and more. This is the season to make business. Everyone does, so why not us as well?"

Some cafes and restaurants have renovated to create a football atmosphere and have increased seating capacity. "We don't want our clients to get bored. We want them to remain with us till the end of the tournament," Shaaban adds.

All five-star hotels and restaurants have installed huge screens to attract their guests so you could have dinner while watching the games.

World Cup fever has also affected the lifestyle of Egyptians. Meetings, conferences and events are to be rescheduled after the final. Urgent matters are listed in agendas according to the times of the matches and their importance.

Some hotels will lose the money they normally make from renting wedding halls since most newlyweds are afraid of attracting less than average guest attendance because of the World Cup. "I won't face the same experience one of my friends passed through four years ago when she set a wedding date on the day of the final of the World Cup (Brazil vs Germany)," recalls Doha Adel. "The hall was mostly empty most of the time. She had paid huge money for it, but the guests preferred watching the final than coming to the wedding. She was disappointed and even argued with the groom who had advised her before not to select that date. Things went more smoothly after some of the guests arrived late, but after the couple had had a hard time.

"So my wedding has been postponed to August because of the World Cup," Adel said.

Schools and universities have made sure to end their final examinations before the World Cup begins. Some have already finished. Secondary year students are the most depressed of all. Ayman Mahmoud, who is preparing to sit for his final year high school exams, says that by the time he finishes, the World Cup will still be going on. "I might not be able to watch the group matches because I'll be busy with my exams but I'll try to adjust my schedule so that one match will be considered a break for me. But I hope I won't have to fight with my parents over it.

"But after I finish my examinations, I'll be free and I won't miss a game."

The normally lucrative summer movie season is also being affected with many movie houses unwilling to show their latest productions for fear of a low turnout at the box office. The exceptions are the films Halim and The Yacoubian Building. Their producers are confident that the drawing power of either film will be strong enough to attract audiences, even during the World Cup.

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