Controversy in Egypt over celebrity cheering delegation's presence at World Cup

Eslam Omar , Tuesday 19 Jun 2018,
Egypt team during last training for Russia (AFP)

The arrival of Egyptian celebrities in Russia to cheer for the country's national football team at the World Cup has stirred controversy among Egyptian fans and sports commentators, who have expressed worry that the celebrities' presence could have a negative impact on the players' focus.

Many in Egypt have expressed outrage over the celebrity delegation – which includes athletes, journalists, TV presenters, actors, actresses and even a belly dancer – staying at the same hotel as the national football team members.

The delegation arrived in St Petersburg on Monday for a trip sponsored by state-owned telecom operator WE ahead of Tuesday's vital World Cup game against hosts Russia.

"Every company has the right to sponsor stars to travel, but why are they all staying so close to a team that is supposed to be in a state of focus and readiness?" tweeted famous Egyptian sports expert Yasser Ayoub.


"Who allowed all this chaos and crowding at the team's hotel? And who convinced these stars that their presence is important for Egypt to win?" Ayoub added.

Khaled Bauomy, another local football expert, also expressed anger at the presence of celebrities so close to the team, saying that "the team's stay must not turn into a village wedding ceremony. Shame on you! We are outraged!"

In response to the controversy, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) stated on their official Facebook page late on Monday that "the football team does not interact with the Egyptian celebrities staying at the same hotel, and they use different entrances."

The Pharaohs, who are participating in the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, are in a do-or-die mission against Russia after losing with a last-minute goal against Uruguay in the opener.



الي روسيا

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Egypt must win against the tournament's hosts if they have any hope of progressing to the next stage. Russia, who is expected to be boosted by at least 60,000 fans in the arena, smashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opener.

Many Egyptians on social media, as well as in newspapers and local media, have also expressed concern that the presence of the celebrities represents a bad omen ahead of the team's game against Russia.


Many have said that the situation is reminiscent of other instances where a delegation of celebrities was present ahead of an ill-fated game by the national football team; most notably the 2010 World Cup deciding-qualifier loss to Algeria in the Sudanese city of Omdurman.

Another memorable instance is the last African Cup of Nations, where the Pharaohs made a surprising push to the final after being disqualified for three successive tournaments, only to lose the match in the end.

Crowned by Liverpool record-breaker Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian team has shown determination to qualify for the round of 16 stage at the World Cup, raising expectations for the football-obsessed country even higher after a solid performance in the opener.



الي روسيا تحيا مصر#المحور

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(For more sports news and updates and a special World Cup 2018 coverage, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports )

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