AFCON 2019 opening ceremony: What the world media said

Marawan Elshafei talked to foreign journalists about the Africa Cup of Nations

Marawan Elshafei, Thursday 27 Jun 2019,
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Opening
Firework explodes in the sky as performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) ahead of the football match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium on June 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

The opening ceremony of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) left an impression, and so did what happened after the match. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) praised what Egyptian fans did after their first clash against Zimbabwe. “Here’s a clip of the Egyptians making sure everything stays nice and clean... What a gesture!!” CAF said on its official Twitter account, sharing a video of Egyptian fans cleaning seats in Cairo International Stadium after the match.

Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to international radio anchors and journalists from North Africa, West Africa and Europe to see what they think about the AFCON in Egypt and their predictions about the eventual outcome.

Buster Kirchner from Denmark writes for Tipsbladet magazine. “It’s hard to find a better place to host this tournament. What happened the other day in the opening ceremony was extraordinary, especially after what happened in 2012. It is perfect that the Egyptian people are back to the stadiums again and show love for the game,” Kirchner said.

Kirchner was referring to the football riot seven years ago in a domestic league game which killed 72 people.

“For me, the Pharaohs are the most favourite team as they have 12 men at their back but also it seems like Nigeria are a very strong team. Although they suffered in their first game against Burundi, scoring only one goal in the dying moments, they still are favourites to make it to the final four. Teams like Senegal and Algeria have good chances in the tournament,” Kirchner added.

“Actually, I don’t think winning the AFCON could secure the Ballon d’Or for Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane. For me, there only two players in the world who can win this trophy: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi,” Kirchner said.

Following Algeria’s 2-0 win over Kenya in the first round, the Weekly spoke to an Algerian journalist to see what he thinks about the tournament and Algeria’s chances of making it to the final scene at Cairo Stadium on 19 July.

“It was a very good performance from the Algerian team especially in the first half,” Mohamed Touileb of the Reporters newspaper said.

“In the second half the team tried to score a third goal to secure the top of the group but the coach decided to rest his key players to get ready for the next game against Senegal which is going to be a decisive match for the Desert Warriors,” Touileb said.

“Actually, I wasn’t surprised by the Algerian fans who came to support the national team here in Egypt. They always travel with their team. Perhaps in the next games there will more Algerian fans if the national side succeeds in making it to the knockout stages,” he added.

Alex Čizmić, co-founder of CalcioAfricano website and the author of Viaggio in Coppa D’Africa, also gave his take about the AFCON.

“The opening ceremony was an amazing demonstration about what Egypt can do in just six months. They already showed this since the draw last April. Regarding atmosphere, I can see it is very difficult for African fans to travel from far countries in Africa to Egypt. So besides Egypt’s games, it is difficult to find a full capacity stadium, however, there are some fans like Algerians and Guineans who are so loud and amazing,” the Italian journalist said.

“In general, I didn’t find in the streets so much excitement of the AFCON and I don’t know why actually but maybe because the stadiums are far away downtown,” Čizmić said.

“I think that the new 24-team format of the AFCON is a very hard challenge for the majority of the African countries. Probably, currently only Egypt, South Africa and Morocco are the only countries that could host this new format of the tournament,” he added.

“Till now, the most impressive teams I watched are Senegal and Algeria but I think Senegal is the favourite to win the competition. In my opinion, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt will make it to the final four.” Čizmić said.

On the Egyptian players and who could play in the Italian League, Čizmić said he would like to see Mahmoud Trezeguet in the Calcio. “Recently he improved his finishing skills a lot. He was linked before with Atlanta and Inter Milan and he could make it in Serie A,” Čizmić suggested.

Olaf Jansen, author of Der Afrika Cup books and a writer at Sportschau, Kicker and Faz in Germany, summed up his opinion about the tournament so far.

“The tournament is very well prepared and the atmosphere is very nice. I really liked the Algerian fans who were loud. I think the tournament is very well organised and very safe,” Jansen said.

Added Jansen: “Egypt set the bar too high for the other countries who will want to host the AFCON as Egypt has high potential in that area but probably there are some problems such as the traffic which won’t make it easy for the visitors.”

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Group A W D L P
Egypt
3 0 0 9
Uganda
1 1 1 4
DR Congo
1 0 2 3
Zimbabwe
0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
Madagascar
2 1 0 7
Nigeria
2 0 1 6
Guinea
1 1 1 4
Burundi
0 0 3 0
Group C W D L P
Algeria
3 0 0 9
Senegal
2 0 1 6
Kenya
1 0 2 3
Tanzania
0 0 3 0
Group D W D L P
Morocco
3 0 0 9
Cote d'Ivoire
2 0 1 6
South Africa
1 0 2 3
Namibia
0 0 3 0
Group E W D L P
Mali
2 1 0 7
Tunisia
0 3 0 3
Angola
0 2 1 2
Mauritania
0 2 1 2
Group F W D L P
Ghana
1 2 0 5
Cameroon
1 2 0 5
Benin
0 3 0 3
Guinea Bissau
0 1 2 1