Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1300, (16 - 22 June 2016)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1300, (16 - 22 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Football and family fun

Euro 2016 and the Copa America are vying with Egypt’s traditional Ramadan amusements. Mohamed Abdel-Razek finds out who’s winning

Al-Ahram Weekly

Coming together at the same time of the year, Euro 2016 and Copa America are two special championships which came right after a blazing football season, especially in Europe. The two events are currently entertaining football enthusiasts this summer while allowing them to remain close to their favourite football stars.

In the Middle East and Egypt in particular, the two tournaments came almost exactly the same time the holy month of Ramadan began, with its string of popular TV shows which families are bent every year on watching. Still, the shows could not detract from the football. People were divided into two categories. Some decided to pay LE600 to subscribe to Bein Max to bring the matches home so that Ramadan shows are watched along with the Euro and Copa America matches. The other category is made up of those wanting to hang out with their friends in cafes and restaurants to enjoy the delightful Ramadan food while watching their favourite European national teams.

Copa America unfortunately gets less viewership compared to the Euro, as the time difference between the Middle East and the North American continent is significant, making it very difficult for people who are fasting to stay awake after Fajr or dawn prayers in order to watch the Copa America matches, which run until 9am Cairo time. “Practically I can’t stay up that late to watch Copa America because I have work in the morning. I might watch it during the weekends instead,” said Mahmoud Hamdi, a cafe customer at the Arkan restaurant complex.

On the other hand, cafe owners have found that the Euro matches attract more people. Accordingly, sponsors have taken advantage of setting up screens everywhere with their logos printed on them making them a favourite of cafe owners as well as showing off their brand. “It was obvious that people started to come to my cafe quickly, since the start of the Euro matches, at the beginning of Ramadan. They used to come here only during the weekends,” said Haitham Al-Guendi, a cafe owner.

Questions have been raised about whether the Euro matches are affecting the viewership of the Ramadan shows. Hardly. Viewers have the chance to watch their Ramadan TV shows on different channels at different times of the day. However, from the advertising point of view, advertisers who target specific times for their ads, when people are expected to be watching TV, will be greatly affected. The Euro night’s main event schedule starts at 9pm, exactly the same time when the Ramadan shows are on fire.

As for the Egyptian Premier League, the situation is not good. After asking people from various areas around the city, most are not willing to sacrifice their precious Ramadan time to sit and watch the Egyptian League instead of the Euro or the Ramadan TV shows. “It is unrealistic to leave the Euro festival and the Ramadan entertainment to watch a dull match without fans,” said Ahmed, a football fan in a cafe in Zamalek.

In the Copa America which started first and is taking place this year in the US, 16 teams went in with high hopes, especially since the tournament is without the Argentine star Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez, the star of Uruguay. The poor form of the Uruguayan team has been the biggest upset for viewers, even though it was expected especially when the PSG star Cavani appeared to be struggling to fill the gap left by Suarez’s absence. That resulted in his national team’s early disqualification from the group stage after two losses against Venezuela and Mexico who both qualified to the next round. Argentina and Brazil remain solid in the tournament, dominating their groups and looking forward to the final rounds, as is the US and Colombia.

Despite the riots which have broken out among English, Russian, French, German and Ukrainian fans, football enthusiasts have decided to concentrate on what’s good about Euro 2016 which is taking place in France. England, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Italy are all big national teams with a big fan base in Egypt, a fact which is enough to bring out loud chants and cheers from cafes and homes during the tournament.

The performance curves appeared from the opening fixtures to be close despite Russia’s last second equaliser against England. In a way the draw was not surprising if we go back in time, but surprising given the pre tournament friendlies that went great with the English squad. Most of the other teams are seeking points to qualify from the group stage regardless of the display. That goes even for the big teams. But second tier teams are not making the job easy.

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