It's harder to please the youngsters
Egypt hopes to stage the best FIFA U20 World Cup ever. Inas Mazhar
sees whether the goal is possible
The FIFA U20 World Cup tournament is scheduled to be held from 24 September to 16 October. The 24-team tournament will be played in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said and Suez.
"In the last FIFA inspection visit, the world governing body delegates expressed their satisfaction with the ongoing developing process which is currently taking place at the six stadiums which will host the event," said Hani Abou Rida, chairman of the Egypt 2009 Local Organising Committee.
"The stadiums are almost finished. We are renovating Cairo Stadium, Ismailia, Port Said and Alexandria Stadium. They were renovated in 2006 for the Africa Cup of Nations. But FIFA has more requirements so they are being refurbished for the second time in three years. But this time, it is even better.
"What remains are the final touches and they will be ready by 15 August and will be tested during the national league competition when it starts on 6 August.
"But the LOC will still be working on them especially in furnishing and decorating some parts. The other two stadiums are brand new and they will be used for the first time. The Egyptian Army Stadium is one of the best in the world. It seats about 80,000 fans. It's brand new and though it was built and has been ready since 2006, it has never been tested and the opening match between the Egyptian team and Trinidad & Tobago is going to be the first match this stadium hosts.
"The other stadium, Al-Salam, belongs to the Military Production. It is the only artificial surface stadium in Egypt and is really wonderful and FIFA is happy with it. It is still being built and is in the final phase and will be ready in time for the tournament.
"We have done a lot in order to ensure that Egypt organises the best ever FIFA U20 World Cup," said Abou Rida who is also a FIFA Executive Committee member.
Tournament director Khaled Abdel-Aziz agrees. "We will depend mainly on spectator attendance. Egyptians love football and love watching international teams. We hope we can attract as many fans as possible and we hope to witness full-house stadiums especially in venues where Egypt is not playing.
"Tickets will be cheaper than the Africa Cup of Nations. The cheapest is for only LE5 and because of this we are expecting to break the record set in the last edition in Canada 2007 which had over one million spectators.
"Tickets are in the process of being printed and we aim to put them on sale by next month so people can start buying them before the tournament begins.
"And as the tournament gets closer, the LOC will be busy. At the beginning of August we are hosting a workshop for the general coordinators of the groups in the tournament. They will have the chance to check everything: team accommodations, stadiums, training sites and facilities. It will also be something of an inspection visit before the tournament kicks off in September.
Apart from the U20 World Cup, the Egyptian Football Association has been busy the past week with TV marketing rights; Article 18 of FIFA, the Essam El-Hadari saga and the new season's national competitions.
The association reached a dead end with the Egyptian Radio and Television Union which is an apparent obstacle in allowing the EFA the opportunity to sell its products. The EFA received an offer from a British company to buy the TV rights of the Egyptian national league for LE585 million for four years. The ERTU, owner of the transmission signal, refuses to sell its signal to the company and the federation and has offered LE90 million. After failing to reach a compromise with the ERTU, the EFA asked Minister of Information Anas El-Fiqi to intervene in solving the dispute in order not to prevent financially deprived clubs from making money.
A misunderstanding related to Article 18 created a problem between the EFA and the clubs during the past several months. The issue came up after Tersana club dropped to the second division. Club chairman Hassan Farid complained to FIFA, using the article rule which forbids any company from being represented in the league by more than two teams. In Egypt, there are three oil-linked clubs and three military squads. If Farid's protest holds, this could cause the EFA board to lose their seats because this will mean that ineligible voters took part in the EFA elections and that could cancel the whole poll and above all destroy the image of the Egyptian federation. President of the National Sports Council Hassan Sakr reached a compromise with Tersana and other teams who have dropped to the second division in order to spare the image of Egyptian football and put an end to this particular story.
Meanwhile, Egyptian football officials were thrilled when the Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS), based in Switzerland froze the FIFA disciplinary committee decision regarding Egypt's goalkeeper Essam El-Hadari who plays for FC Sion. FIFA had banned the goalie and fined Sion 900,000 euros to be paid to Ahli, El-Hadari's former club. It also banned the Swiss club from registering any new local or foreign player for the next two seasons. El-Hadari had received a four-month suspension starting the new season in August. Now, with the FIFA decision frozen until CAS gives its final say on the issue after four months, El-Hadari can continue playing for Egypt.
Head coach Hassan Shehata could be the happiest man alive now that El-Hadari can play in the three remaining World Cup qualifiers when Egypt resumes the second-leg matches. Egypt has two away matches against Rwanda on 5 September and Zambia on 10 October before hosting Algeria in Cairo on 14 November.
The new season starts with the Super Cup between the FA Cup winners Haras Al-Hedoud and league champions Ahli. The game will take place at the end of July. The national league season will kick off on 6 August.