AFCON 2019: Cairo Stadium clean up

Spectators left Cairo Stadium the way they found it: nice and clean, reports Abeer Anwar

Abeer Anwar , Thursday 27 Jun 2019,

Fan attendance was a trend on social media platforms worldwide on 21 June as the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) officially opened at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt.

The AFCON grand opening was symbolic, simple, short and dazzling. It attracted the world’s attention and was praised by international football stakeholders.

There was another pretty sight: the number of fans among the 75,000 who did their part to make the tournament a success by cleaning up after the game ended. Not only did fans fill Cairo Stadium hours before the opening ceremony to cheer on the Egyptian national team but left the stands clean as a whistle.

A group of Egyptian youths created a campaign before the opening match called “Cheer and Clean”. Towing big black plastic bags, their job was to collect rubbish left by spectators after matches and throw them into trash bins located just outside the stadiums.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who attended the opening match against Zimbabwe, congratulated Egyptian fans on his Facebook account for what they did before, during and after the match. “I am very proud of such a respectable example of Egyptian youth who were eager to represent their country in the best way ever in front of the whole world,” El-Sisi wrote.

In his address in the stadium, El-Sisi also said that the new security procedures for the AFCON could allow fans back to the stadiums to attend league and local cup matches. Following the 2012 football riot that killed 72 spectators in a domestic league game, local matches have been played in empty stadiums.

Al-Ahram Weekly talked to a number of fans about their experience entering and leaving Cairo Stadium, and the tazkarti (my ticket) sale of tickets, the first time an online system is tried in an AFCON.

“I’m very happy with what I experienced,” Salma Galal said. “Every time I hesitate to go to matches because of what I hear about pushing and harassment, but this time it was very well organised. There were special doors for females. Entering and leaving the stadium was very easy. I had a ticket for the third category, right. I had no idea where it was but I was guided to where I had to go.”

Ali Tarek, another fan, said that the male line was very long, “but we moved very easily and the machines provided by tazkarti which checked Fan IDs and matching tickets were very good. We did not have to wait a lot especially since we were abiding by the rule that we should not bring in water bottles or food and that only juices were allowed.”

Nada Ahmed recounted that she was worried that the stadium would not have clean toilets or that they might be far from where she was seated. “But the toilets were everywhere and they were very clean and the bathrooms had a nice smell. There were also a number of booths selling water, food and everything else because we stayed over eight hours in the stands.”

Young people were not the only fans. Families which included the elderly were on hand as well. There were those with drums leading the cheers, chants and claps from the stands. Human waves were formed, creating a moving sea of people.

“It was very exciting as even the cheering was organised and harmonious,” Omar Metwalli said. “I enjoyed the day very much and hope to find another seat or get another ticket for the rest of Egypt’s matches.”

That’s how things shaped up at the start of the continent’s biggest sports tournament.

* This story has been published in Al-Ahram Weekly

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