Africa Cup of Nations: Five things we learned on Day 1: A grand day out...
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Egypt scraped past Zimbabwe to start the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations with a win in front of 70,000 passionate fans. And Salah didn't score. That could be good news.
1. Organisation, organisation, organisation
Tony Blair, on acceding to power in pre-Brexit Britain, declared that his main priorities would be education, education and education. My, how the British have learned. Ahmad Ahmad, the president of African football’s governing body, Caf, said in the run-up to the Cup of Nations that his credibility should not be defined by the success of the tournament in Egypt. Smart move.
Caf suggested that fans should get to the opening match between Egypt and Zimbabwe early. It was slated to start at 22:00 local time and as the review tried to find a way into the Cairo International Stadium at around 1400, there was indeed a throng of people labouring to enter the venue. But at least there wasn’t the panic nor the police firing tear gas that led to 20 fans being crushed to death just over four years ago at the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo. Education.
Nearly 40 years ago, the singer songwriter Gerard Kenny penned a song New York, New York (So Good They Named It Twice). It was a modest hit but the review’s been reminded of it due to Ahmad Ahmad, the biggest wig at the Confederaton of African Football which is behind the Africa Cup of Nations. He is good. Very good.
His was a virtuoso performance in a press conference just before the opening match. When asked if he had invited Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon, whose country was stripped of the hosting rights, Ahmad replied: “Those kind of things aren’t up to me. He’s a head of state. It’s up to the Egyptian government to issue such invitations.” A Sade song comes to mind.
While on a musical vein. They love their Mo Salah do the locals. The arrival of the Egypt team bus was displayed on the big screen at the Cairo International Stadium just after the opening ceremony had finished. A picture of Mo walking towards the changing rooms was shown and a huge cheer went up. There was munificence in the evening air too. The Egyptian fans didn’t boo the pictures of the Zimbabwe team when their bus arrived. Nice touch that.
Spiel good factor
Perhaps the spectators were still chirpy following after a sprightly opening ceremony. It was a tight 30 minute affair. Lots of dancing, twirling illuminated umbreallas, some funky electro music, lights and lasers and for once it wasn’t a weapons grade sound system.
The Egypt team might have needed a police armed escort had they not drudged a 1-0 win against Zimbabwe. Mahmoud Hassan, who sports the name Trézéguet on his shirt, scored just before half-time. WonderMo over on the right had a couple of shots on target and looked menacing. Egypt's assistant coach, Hany Ramzy, conceded the match was not as spectacular as the opening ceremony. But you can't argue with three points. And what with the goal coming from the left hand flank, that's also a result.
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