‘I already bought a ticket’, Egyptian fans didn't see it coming

Given Egypt’s historical achievements in AFCON tournaments, many Egyptians did not expect the early exit, accordingly buying tickets for the quarter-finals

Bassem Aly , Wednesday 10 Jul 2019,
Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Round of 16 - Egypt v South Africa - Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - July 6, 2019 Egypt fans react inside the stadium REUTERS

Ahmed, 28, did not see Egypt’s defeat coming. He was 15 years old when Egypt won its fifth Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title against Cote d’Ivoire in Cairo Stadium in 2006, winning its sixth and seventh titles afterwards in 2008 and 2010.

Ahmed believed it will all work the same way this time, buying — before Egypt’s last 16 match against South Africa — tickets to the quarter-finals. But Ahmed, along with tens of thousands of Egyptians who did the same, will be watching the South African-Nigeria game instead. Egypt will not be there after its 1-0 defeat against the Bafana Bafana. A Plan B can be not going to the match at all.

“I already bought a ticket. I thought it [Egypt-South Africa match] will be an easy game. I never expected that things will end up this way,” said Ahmed. He decided he will attend the quarter-final match, especially that he cannot make a ticket cancellation, though being aware that other people, including those he personally knows, will not do the same.

This is an indication that fewer fans will attend the remaining matches after Egypt’s early exit. Already a limited number of fans have gone to the games that the team of the host country was not part of. This has been partially related to the high cost of tickets. The cheapest ticket during the group stage reached LE150.

From the beginning till the end, it was not an easy experience for Ahmed. Ahmed, a computer scientist, said he spent around three hours until he managed to reserve a ticket through the new electronic system. He said the system was not working smoothly “because its software includes bugs and errors”.

“Sometimes I had to wait for an hour and check the website again to pay the money. At this point of time, I had to make a new reservation, for I did not submit a payment during the first time, which, therefore, cancels the whole process. The exact problem happened with the initial process of choosing a ticket,” Ahmed pointed out.

He expects, as a minimum, to receive good service with reasonable prices, especially inside stadiums. “For example, one of my friends who went to Cairo Stadium told me that it costs LE 65 to buy a Molto [croissant] and a pack of chips. This is too much,” Ahmed said.

Instead of ticket-buying windows, people are buying tickets electronically for the first time in Egypt through tazkarti (My Ticket). As a first step, fans have to be issued the Fan ID, a “unique identification document” used to identify a fan registered in tazkarti. The tazkarti website describes it as “your laissez-passer to the stadium”, which then allows people to buy match tickets.  

Ahmed said that he might consider buying tickets for the semi-finals or the finals. “I think Algeria might win the tournament, and I would like to watch it.” This interest in watching other African teams seems to be shared by younger generations. Unfortunately, some of them didn’t have the chance to watch coach Hassan Shehata’s dream team.

Sofia, 13, felt disappointed as she “longed to watch a good team [Egyptian] that presents high-quality football to the fans.” “I didn’t enjoy the performance of the Egyptian team at all. Perhaps this happened because I watch the European teams and its big contests,” Sofia said. Nevertheless, she will attend the final game, hoping to see some of the African stars such as Senegal’s Sadio Mané or Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez.

Those who regularly go to football stadiums in Egypt have an interesting perspective to share. Michel, 27, attended the Group A game between Egypt and DR Congo. He previously saw dozens of matches of Egypt’s national team and Zamalek SC, the team he supports, through the years. But he chose not to attend the quarter-final game despite getting a ticket.

“After all, the electronic reservation system is great. I still remember the days when we had to wait for long hours in very hot weather in front of gates of sporting clubs to get match tickets. In 2006, the AFCON tickets mostly came from the black market. Nowadays, you cannot buy a ticket, either for yourself, a friend or family member, without a Fan ID. The whole world now counts on online reservations,” he said.

Michel also noted he faced no problems with the security measures whether inside or outside Cairo Stadium. “There are a number of rules that were announced. If you follow them, you will have a great experience,” he said.

He spoke about his experience in visiting Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home stadium, in 2015 during a summer vacation. He believes Egypt, despite huge progress in stadiums that was widely praised, could learn lessons from such an iconic stadium.

“Back then, there wasn’t electronic reservations for the Camp Nou tour. But what grabbed my attention was the great infrastructure, multi-story shops that offer Barca products, a huge Nike shop and access to the historical achievements of the club. This includes, as an example, the club’s Champions League trophies, Leo Messi’s boots that he wore when he scored his first hat-trick and others. These people know how to make revenue,” Michel explained.

Perhaps his sole disappointment came from Egypt’s defeat against South Africa. “At the end of the day, this [South Africa] was a team that came third in its group. Even with a narrow margin, like 2-1 or 2-0, I believed we will definitely make it to the quarter-finals,” Michel added.

South Africa played in Group D with Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and Namibia, qualifying in third place, while Egypt came on top of Group A that included Uganda, DR Congo and Zimbabwe. This reflects a great deal of public dissatisfaction with the results of Javier Aguirre’s team.

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