CAIRO, Egypt, Jul 4 – As the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) knockout phase begins on Friday in Egypt, the hosts are straight favorites to advance all the way to the finals, but that is not quite the mutual feeling among Egyptian fans across the country.
Capital Sports spoke to a few fans and most are not convinced that this current Egyptian side is strong enough to go all the way and break a thirst for the title that dates back all the way to 2010 when they won it thrice in a row.
“Yes they have won, but I am not convinced yet. They don’t play good football. They have just won by luck. If you look at other teams the way they are playing, I don’t think we can match up to them,” an Uber driver told Capital Sports.
Another one added; “I fear that we will leave the competition early. We have won three games, but in none of those can you say we won comfortably. We have not dominated any team we have beaten. And that is a cause of worry,” another one further stated.
An attendant at one of the busy shops in the streets of Cairo quickly objected when we presented the fact that Egypt are favorites for the Cup.
“No no, I don’t think we have that spirit to win. We don’t play good football now and there are many teams who are better. If we meet Algeria or Morocco, it will be very hard,” he stated.
Egypt topped Group A after winning all their games without conceding a goal. They beat Zimbabwe 1-0 before replicating 2-0 results against Uganda and DR Congo.
They face South Africa in the second round on Saturday at the Cairo International Stadium. If they win this tie, then a quarter final against either Nigeria or defending champions Cameroon awaits.
Whether Egyptians are passionate about their team or not is out of question. Whenever The Pharaohs are playing at the Cairo Stadium, the ground starts filling up as early as three hours to the game, and the noise levels in are usually outrageous.
In and out of the pitch, the passion is overzealous at whatever age.
A young fan, Amr, 11 years old, narrated to Capital Sports just how much he loves his national team.
“I remember in 2017 when we lost the final, I was just nine years old. I couldn’t stop crying for almost three days. My aunty would just tell me it is just football but I told her football is life. At that time in school we were learning about the map of the world. I went to my map and I put a big X on where Cameroon was,” he narrated.
He added; “This year, I am afraid. I have watched the games on TV but I am not very confident. But I hope we win. My father told me that if Egypt get to the semi finals and the final, he will take me to the stadium to watch. I can’t wait.”
Egypt are the most successful team in the tournament and a win on home soil, just like in 2006 will take their tally to a record extending eight titles.
While most are not confident of the results the tea has posted, there is no denying that Liverpool Mohammed Salah is held in such high esteem by all Egyptians; to say he is an idol is the least of descriptions.
“I love Mo Salah. Every team he goes to, I become a fan of that team. He went to Fiorentina, I followed him. He went to Roma, I followed him. He is now in Liverpool, I am a Liverpool supporter. He is a great footballer,” one of the volunteers at the AFCON said.
A taxi driver within the busy Cairo streets also added; “Mo Salah, is king of Egypt, he is king of Liverpool.”
But while Salah is their new found love, there is no denying that Mohammed Aboutrika still earns the highest respect of a footballer in Egypt.
“Salah is the best now, but Abou will forever be great. He is the best of all time and we will never forget him,” another fan said of the famous Egypt and Al Ahly number 22.