German football enthusiast Maximilian Lütgens, reporting exclusively for The African Courier, writes on his trip to Egypt to watch this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, revealing not only the actions in the stadiums but also the thrill outside of them at the continental football fiesta. Enjoy!
From 25 June to 2 July, I travelled to Egypt for a week of vacation and attended Africa’s most important football championship – Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). After a visit to the pyramids of Giza, we went with a minibus to Alexandria for the Nigeria versus Guinea game.
At the bus station, I met four Nigerian fans who spoke Arabic and could find the right bus for us. At temperatures around 35 degrees we saw Nigeria struggled to a 1: 0 victory in the midday heat of Alexandria.
Leon Balogun, who was born and grew up in Berlin, played in the match and helped to stabilize the defence of the Super Eagles. Nigerian fans celebrated the victory on the streets of Alexandria with a lot of dancing and drumming. And one or the other fan of Guinea also danced along.
The next day I visited the team hotel of Nigeria and met the German coach Gernot Rohr, who was very satisfied with the outcome of the match against Guinea. He told me of his plan to field some substitutes in the next game against Madagascar, as Nigeria were already qualified for the knockout stages. I was surprised and feared that this might not be enough against the surprise team from Madagascar.
Actually the Super Eagles lost 2-0 a few days later against Madagascar. We supported the team in vain with trumpets and vuvuzelas in the middle of the fan block. However, Rohr’s strategy later proved to be a smart move as his players could rest and win in the round of 16 match against Cameroon.
Disappointed after Nigeria’s loss to Madagascar, I travelled with my four Nigerian friends on the return journey to Cairo, which turned out to be extremely complicated. We wanted to ride in a fan bus organized by the Nigerian embassy, but it was overcrowded. There was a fierce discussion about the seats, in which my friends participated loudly.
The organizer of the tour came to me after a while and told me that I would get a seat because I had not complained. But I wanted to travel with my friends, who were not allowed to ride in this bus and so we took another bus.
However, we had to wait for a fan who had broken his arm during a fall in the stadium and was in the hospital. When the journey finally started after three hours, the driver suddenly stopped to help another bus driver to change the tire of his vehicle. So we reached Cairo after three long stops, four hours later as planned, in the middle of the night. The mood among the fans however was not dampened. “A trip to remember,” said one of the fans to me.
Overall, the atmosphere was phenomenal at all matches in the stadium and it was a shame that few Egyptians came to the games. In the Côte d’Ivoire against Morocco match, Ivorian fans danced and drummed to the end, although Morocco had the game well under control and won 1-0. Afterwards one could also follow the derby South Africa-Namibia (1: 0) in the same stadium. For the price of 1.50 €. In addition to fans from the four teams, I also met fans from Chad and Mauritania.
A day later I travelled with a minibus to Ismailia to the top match of the preliminary round, Cameroon against Ghana. A game characterised by combat and action ended unfortunately with 0: 0. In the stadium I met three nice ladies from Cameroon, one of whom is married to the team doctor of the national team.
I was offered the opportunity to travel back to Cairo with them in a taxi and stop by at the hotel of the national team. There I met among others, Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf, who won the Champions League four times, and Hamburg-born captain Eric Maxime Chuopo-Moting. He was in a good mood and we chatted a bit about his time at Hamburger SV. Although he now plays for Paris St. Germain, he still carries the HSV diamond in his heart.
The last game of my tour was another 0-0 draw by Cameroon against outsiders Benin. Called the “squirrels” by their fans, the Benin side celebrated their draw against the defending champions as if they had won the Africa Cup. Also many fans from Mali arrived, who shortly afterwards in the same stadium were able to celebrate their country’s 1-0 victory against Angola.
Despite difficult arrival procedures and a partly chaotic city of Cairo, I flew very happy back to Germany.
The Africa Cup is a great tournament for fans, as it is not yet as commercialized as the World Cup or the Champions League. In addition, you will meet fans from all over Africa and celebrate a peaceful football festival. The Egyptians proved to be friendly hosts who would like to help you in case of difficulties. And also you could see good football from teams like Nigeria and Madagascar. I can recommend the tournament in any case to football adventurers.
Translation by Femi Awoniyi
The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (abbreviated as AFCON2019), known as the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations for sponsorship reasons, is the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The tournament is being hosted by Egypt. The competition is currently held from 21 June to 19 July 2019, when Senegal will play against Algeria for the title. Nigeria beat Tunisia in the third-place play-off on 17 July.