Most Egyptian football viewers may be hostile to Israel, despite a decades-old peace treaty between the two countries, but they don't mind watching the World Cup on an Israeli channel, given that many can hardly afford to pay the hefty subscription fee to private satellite broadcasters.
beIN Sports, owned by Qatari network Al Jazeera, is exclusively broadcasting the World Cup in Africa and the Middle East. But at nearly LE1,000 for a football subscription package, many are seeking alternative routes to watch the world's most prestigious sporting event for free.
The Egyptian Sports Writers Association, under the leadership of newly-elected journalist Mohamed Shabana, repotedly released a statement on Wednesday rejecting what it describes as an "Al Jazeera conspiracy to force Arab nations to watch Zionist channels."
The association argues that the Qatari channels, who have exclusive broadcast rights of the World Cup in the region, have sued Arabic channels many times in the past for breaking broadcast rules, but they ignore Israeli channels that do so in order to force Arabs to normalise with Israel.
"We demand all Arabs not to watch Zionist channels, even at the price of not watching the World Cup," the association insisted in its statement.
Speaking with Ahram Online, football expert Khaled Bayoumi agreed that watching Israeli channels is tantamount to "normalising" relations, which he says he's "totally against".
There are other free channels for Egyptians to watch the matches on, he said, like the European ones Astra and Hotbird.
"But I say to Egyptian viewers: if you have no option but to watch the Israeli channels, then to hell with the whole World Cup," said Bayoumi, a regular guest on Egyptian sports programmes.
Al Jazeera and Egypt
Egyptian authorities have shown antagonism towards Al Jazeera, the channel which is known to support the Muslim Brotherhood – designated a terrorist organisation in December.
Al Jazeera's offices were raided shortly after the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi and the deadly dispersal of a pro-Morsi sit-in last August.
Three of the channel's employees were handed seven to 10 year jail sentences by an Egyptian court this week for spreading "false news", a ruling that many countries and rights groups viewed as a crackdown against anti-regime media.
Despite all the debates, Al Jazeera Sports network beIN gained a big number of subscriptions – and are still gaining subscribers – especially for the World Cup.
One journalist that Ahram Online spoke with, who describes herself as anti-Zionist, said that she was at first against the "whole idea of watching Israeli channels." But then she thought that she'd "be benefiting from them", with the station getting nothing in return.
"I enjoyed the feeling that I was ripping them off," she said.
For Ibrahim El-Masry, a former footballer from Port Said, the situation reeks of a conspiracy.
"People are poor and have no choice," he said. "Why don't the authorities broadcast the World Cup on our local channels?"
"Israel is ... targeting poor and badly-educated people," said the former Masry star, who played on the Egyptian national team in the 1990s. He described Israel's World Cup broadcasting efforts as "obvious propaganda" and "just the beginning" of future programmes to "hook Arab viewers".
Israel welcomes viewers
Meanwhile, Israel doesn't seem too concerned with the debate.
"I hear that many football fans in neighbouring countries are watching the World Cup live on Israeli channels. We welcome you," Ofir Gendelman, Arab media spokesman for Israel's prime minister, said via Facebook and Twitter last Saturday.
On Wednesday, Gendelman published a photo with Hebrew football expressions, written in Arabic letters and translated into Arabic, adding that he hoped they proved "useful" for Arab fans of the World Cup.
Comments for Gendelman
But most fans didn't seem too happy with the gesture. Comments were mostly tongue-in-cheek:
"Uncle Ofir, tell them to change the logo and put flags of the teams beside their names [written in Hebrew] because we don't understand it. And get me a shisha and a cup of sahleb!"
"We are taking what we want from you but after the World Cup, Goodbye Amos Satellite."
"Get us an Arabic commentator and I will pray for you that you die soon!"
"And how do you translate: a prayer in Al-Quds?"
Additional reporting by Osman El-Sharnoubi