Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Hard to choose

Of all the European derbies played this week, Ahmed Hamdi sees which captured our attention and imagination the most

Click to view caption
"El Grande Classico", Barcelona vs Real Madrid

Having four separate derbies played out in four countries, football fans had their hands full this week. In particular, two big clashes which would see people gather to watch in every other café in Egypt was "El Grande Classico", Barcelona vs Real Madrid in Spain, and the Milan derby between Inter Milan and AC Milan in Italy. Despite so, France too had two of its biggest teams go head to head as Marseille played Paris Saint Germain. Moving to the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal too had its Classico played as FC Porto hosted Sporting Lisbon FC.

However, fans weren't very lucky with the timings of all these matches as they overlapped. "El Grande Classico" started at 19:50 CLT followed by the Milan derby at 20:45 then 15 minutes later the referee whistled the start of the French derby, to be followed 45 minutes later by the Portuguese game. That meant that fans had to make a decision as to which to watch and which to skip.

"I would be crazy to skip El Classico," said 22-year- old Ahmed Nasser. "The Milan derby is a great match too and the French one with the new signings of PSG would have been interesting but both of them are not in the standard of 'El Grande Classico.'"

Agreeing, Mustafa Hamid, 17, thought the word "crazy" would describe him too if he skipped a match that has Ronaldo and Messi. The two players, who are fighting for the best player in the world award this year, gave an outstanding performance Sunday night, both scoring twice and leading their teams to a 2-2 draw. "That's why I can't miss it and I'm not just talking about Ronaldo and Messi. Look at the other players on the pitch Ozil, Iniesta, Casillias, they are amazing," Hamid added.

Tamer Mahmoud, 27, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he too chose the Barcelona vs Real Madrid classico over the others. "It's the biggest game on earth so how could I watch any other match?" Mahmoud said. "I wouldn't say though that I didn't want to watch the Milano derby but my priority was El Classico since I'm a Real Madrid fan and, lucky me, I caught the second half of the Italians,"

The Milan derby in fact had its own share of viewers all over Egypt. One of them was Mohamed Hassan, 26, who cancelled everything on his schedule on Sunday to watch his beloved AC Milan. "I know many people preferred El Classico but for me Milan comes first," Hassan told the Weekly. The Milan derby ended with the defeat of AC Milan 0-1 having veteran, Walter Samuel, scoring Inter's only goal. "Well, I certainly didn't expect that but what can I say; that's football,"

Real football is how Ahmed Ihab, 20, described the Inter vs. Milan derby. "Yes, the Spanish teams have more quality players but still, for me, Italian football is the best," Ihab said.

Ihab's friend Mohamed Hisham, 20, couldn't agree more. Hisham who is a huge Inter fan as he told the Weekly, sees that El Classico has become "boring" as Real Madrid and Barcelona clashed a lot in the last two years. "But on the other hand, Milan's derby is still very much entertaining despite the two teams not having their best times these days," Hisham explained.

The importance of both El Classico and the Milan derby was sensed as the matches progressed with minute by minute updates of the score and match events on Facebook and twitter. Egyptians were split between Barcelona and Real Madrid and later on between Inter and Milan. Updated statuses during the matches included tactical views of the fans and different opinions regarding substitutions and referees.

The two matches certainly captured the attention of women as well as men seeing that their "Messi statuses" were decorated with hearts as he scored while others cheered for Ronaldo. Some of them even argued with their male friends who supported the other team.

The competition was not only on the pitch. "We do this every game," Radwa Mohsen said, explaining having an argument with a friend of hers on Facebook over El Classico as it was played. "It has become a habit I think since I am a Barcelona fan and he is a Madridista," Mohsen told the Weekly.

Away from the Spanish and Italian clashes, France had its own battle as the star-filled team of Paris Saint Germain played Olympic Marseille. The match ended in a 2-2 draw with the Swedish superstar of PSG, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scoring twice. Despite the new signings of PSG, the match failed to capture the attention of many Egyptians. "Maybe it's the timing of the match overlapping with the Milan derby," Mohamed Yehia, 23, said. Yehia himself watched the second half of the match "but many others I think had enough football time after watching El Classico and the Milan derby" he explained.

Moving to another country in Europe, in Portugal, another "classico" was played. Porto hosted the green and white striped team of Sporting Lisbon. The match ended for Porto 2-0 with a yellow card record of 13 for both teams, two of which turned into a red card for Lisbon. That match though had hardly any interest in Egypt. "Was there a Portuguese classico? I had no idea," said Yehia.

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