Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Irreplaceable and irresistible

Despite the return of Egyptian football, the European Champions League just can’t be beat, Ahmed Hamdi reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Which is the best football club? You’re probably thinking Real Madrid, Barcelona or maybe Manchester United or AC Milan. What about Ahli and Zamalek? Have you thought about them? Probably not. That is exactly how Egyptians have migrated with their minds, hearts and attention towards European teams. If you had asked an Ahli fan, for example, that question two years ago he wouldn’t have hesitated to say Ahli. That’s because the question is linked in his head with local football; the one he had been following religiously since he was a child.
The local league was canceled last year in February after the death of 74 Ahli fans in Port Said following a league match between Al-Masri and Ahli. Since then, nothing remained for those thirsty for some football pleasure except the European leagues and the European Champions League. Priorities changed for many during that period. Whoever followed European football marginally suddenly became totally involved.
“That’s all true,” said 54-year-old Mohamed Raafat. “Despite the huge difference between local and European football, people have always considered their local team the best in the world as Ahli fans used to say, for example.” Raafat, who is a fan of Real Madrid, had never followed an entire season of the Spanish giants.”That was until the football season was canceled in Egypt. Then I had time to follow the Spanish League and of course the Champions League,” Raafat said. “Following both local and European football at the same time was nearly impossible or else I wouldn’t ever do anything else except watch football.”
Egyptian football came back to life last month with the start of a new season but still doesn’t look like it has garnered much attention. Although one reason for that is the unsettled political situation, there is another reason people have told Al-Ahram Weekly about. “How could someone go back from watching that level of football being played in Europe to that thing we have here and mistakenly call ‘football?’” Karim Saleh, 23, said. “We finally saw how much we were missing by following local football and not European soccer our whole lives,” Saleh spoke on behalf of his friends who surrounded him as they watched Barcelona’s match against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.
Although Saleh spoke to us during the La Liga match it would have been impossible to speak to him if it was a Champions League match. “The Champions League is the definition of pleasure, joy and real football,” Saleh said. Indeed, this year’s Champions League has heated up and has hooked the attention of everyone around the world including Egyptian fans. “This year’s Champions League could use the famous Nike slogan ‘Impossible is Nothing’,” Saleh added.
Saleh was referring to the results of the round of 16 of the Champions League. In that round Real Madrid went head-to-head with the English Red Devils Manchester United. In their home match, Madrid failed to score a victory going into their away match at Old Trafford Stadium of Manchester United with a 1-1 draw. Although everyone doubted that Real could win there, Madrid surprised the world, sinking the Reds ship with a 2-1 defeat.
Another great comeback story was the clash between the so-called “best team in the world” Barcelona and the seven-time Champions League winner AC Milan. Barcelona went to the San Siro stadium of Milan with everyone thinking it an easy trip for the Catalonians. It was far from that as they were handed a 2-0 defeat by the young stars of the big Italian club. That was followed by two other losses against their rivals Real Madrid in Copa Del Rey and La Liga respectively.
 There was definitely something wrong with the red and blue team and it was thought to continue as they faced Milan in their return match at Barcelona’s home the Camp Nou. A 4-0 win over the Italian giant was just a dream comeback that silenced all who thought Barcelona were finished.
 A funny incident took place before and after the Barcelona match in a café in Heliopolis. A young man who is known for being crazy about Milan had promised a café owner who is crazy about Barcelona, and has the nickname of Messi, to watch the match together. The café owner who is 60 promised the 26-year-old a 4-0 victory for Barcelona over his team or else he would break the TV screen. The young man accepted and the bet was on.
Despite the confidence he had in his team, the café owner looked nervous at the beginning of the match while the young man looked calm and confident. Having Messi scoring an early goal, feelings started to switch between the two. As goals hit the Italian net one by one the young man had his head down while the old man had a huge smile on his face. After the match, the 60-year-old man celebrated with all Barcelona fans in his café by dancing the recently famous Gangam Style. “The Champions League thrill has driven everyone crazy,” The old man told the Weekly after the dance.  No screen was smashed.
The Champions League is now followed by most Egyptian soccer fans. The quarter-finals are coming up next month and the draw which was held a few days ago has been very much debated since then.
“As usual Barcelona and Real Madrid have easy matches but we will emerge victorious anyway and win the cup,” Islam Mohamed, a Juventus fan told the Weekly. “Dortmund is very lucky having to face Malaga which is arguably the weakest of the eight teams,” Yasser Ahmed, a Real Madrid fan, said as he analysed the draw. “I wouldn’t complain though; my team had its share of good luck as well facing Galatasaray,” Ahmed added.
For Ayman Salah, a Barcelona fan, the draw is interesting just one reason. “We will get to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic return to the Camp Nou,” Salah said. Ibrahimovic is a former Barcelona player who had many problems with ex- Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and the players as well. “It will be interesting to see the kind of reception he will get back there,”
If you are a supporter of one of the eight teams still chasing the cup or if you are just a fan of beautiful football, make sure you follow the quarter-finals kick-off on 2-3 April. The matches air exclusively on Al-Jazeera Sports which you can find in almost every café around Cairo. Maybe at the end of this round you’ll be dancing the Gangam Style.

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