Sunday, November 15, 2009

Egypt vs. Algeria soccer game

Right now countries around the world are trying to qualify for the world cup, in many cases group play in winding down and teams are winning their spots. Egypt is in the midst of the qualifying round and had the last group match last night. It was against Algeria, a hated soccer foe. Algeria was 1st in the group and Egypt was 2nd. Egypt had to win by 2 goals to force a one game neutral site playoff or win by 3 to qualify for the cup and knock Algeria out.

A little history lesson now...
Algeria and Egypt have historically been two of the African soccer powerhouses. This has forced a bitter rivalry between the two nations. In past matches, Egyptian fans have thrown rocks at the Algerian coach and injured 4 players in the process. In I think it was 1989 when the teams played in Cairo, a fight broke out in the hotel the Algerians were staying in and an Egyptian lost his eye in the mayhem. This resulted in an international arrest warrant for one of the Algerian players who is now a de-facto prisoner within his own country. Here's a good read on the rivalry

In anticipation of this game, the US embassy issued its first warden's statement that was sent via email to all registered Americans here. The message warned against going to the area of the stadium let alone the game due to heavy traffic and the possibility of crowds becoming violent. So what did I do, yup you guessed it, I bought myself a ticket to the game. Four of us went and as soon as we got out of the taxi we became the center of attention. We had red shirts on, had our Egyptian flags with us and got our faces painted. We made some Egyptian friends and then went off to find a way into the stadium. One police officer told us we had to go around the corner so we did, but shortly after doing so we saw a huge crowd of Egyptians running towards us so we decided we should turn around and move with the crowd. We eventually played the dumb American card and didn't speak any Arabic. We told the police we were American and little by little we were able to get past each riot police barricade. This worked until the final gate where we just had to push our way with the crowds of Egyptians forcing our way though the police line.

The game itself was awesome. Egypt scored in the 2nd minute of play to go up 1-0. Soon after the Egyptians just missed another chance. It went into half time with the Egyptians far outplaying Algeria, but only winning 1-0. In the second half, Algeria played a very defensive game. If they lost 1-0 it didn't matter, they were still making the Cup. Egypt's play was horrendous in the second half. People even began leaving when there were 5-10 minutes left in the game. 6 minutes of stoppage were added to the end and in the 5th minute, Egypt scored and the stadium erupted. Flags were waving everywhere, people jumping everywhere and random flares were being lit. By winning 2-0 Egypt has forced the playoff game this Wednesday night.

After the game the streets were mayhem, but a fun and friendly mayhem. Flares were going off everywhere, people were dancing with blowtorches, dancing on top of buses and trucks and cars. Dancing in the streets blocking traffic. Women were also the most liberated I had seen since being here. There were car fulls of girls and women driving around. Women dancing in the streets. We met up with some Egyptians and partook in the shenanigans. We started in Heliopolis where there was just a big gathering in the streets, as it started to wind down, we walked up towards where the car doughnut spinning competition had begun. From there we caught a ride to another party, we did the ride in true Egyptian style. Two people were sitting in the open trunk, three were sitting on the roof and I was sitting on the hood with another friend. We stopped and joined the party in front of the President's house and then hopped back on the car to move onto another street party. This one was a big fire circle in the street. We danced and partied with the Egyptians outside and inside the fire circle. Last night is by far one of the best memories and experiences of my life. We had started partying for the game at about 2pm and I eventually got home at 5am.

Here are some links about the game and pictures from CNN. Picture 2 of the guy leading the cheer, I was sitting to the upper right of him

Lesson learned from this day...don't listen to US Embassy warnings, HAHA, just kidding Mom. All of you please cheer for Egypt to win on Wednesday night so I can have another night of crazy street partying that will be even crazier than last night.

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