DUBAI // Egyptian football fans paraded through the streets of the UAE last night after their Pharaohs defeated Ghana in the final of the African Cup of Nations in Angola, winning the continental championship for the seventh time. Mohammed Geddo scored in the 87th minute to secure the cup for Egypt, their third in succession. The victory in the African tournament provided a bit of salve to the wounded psyches of Egyptian players and fans; the team failed to qualify for the World Cup, to be played in South Africa from June 11.
Egyptian fans entered the game with unprecedented swagger. Many felt they were untouchable following a stunning, 4-0 semi-final victory over their arch-rivals, Algeria, last week. Thousands of members of the UAE's community of Egyptian expatriates crowded into the country's shisha cafes to once again cheer for their national team. Their celebrations and post-match parades are now notorious for keeping the country's residents up late at night. Everyone now knows when Egypt is playing or rather when Egypt wins.
The atmosphere was vibrant at Al Midwakh, a small cafe in Dubai's populous Abu Hail neighbourhood. A halo of shisha and cigarette smoke hovered in the air in a faint mist. There is no smoking ban here. The tension was palpable during the match. Every foul against the Pharaohs was a grave injustice, every missed opportunity elicited groans of anger and the occasional profanity. Egypt's fans are accustomed to disappointment at the most inopportune of times.
Fans cheered when Geddo, a striker who seemed to score every time he entered a match in the tournament, marched on to the pitch. Seconds later, Geddo skilfully slotted the ball past Ghana's keeper, scoring the winner. Deafening roars broke out after the final whistle. Fans sprayed foam in the street and prostrated themselves on an Egyptian flag, blocking cars and covering them with Egyptian flags, to the irritation of some drivers.
One supporter hugged a passing motorist on a bike, almost dragging him off his vehicle. Many broke out into dancing, or climbed nearby generators. Flares lit the night, and fans sweated in the heat despite the breezy night. "I can't even think in this noise," said Ahmed Abdel Wahab, a college student, as horns and congratulations echoed around, under the eyes of watchful police patrols. "Al hamdulillah, I'm happy," said Mohammed Arafat, an Egyptian fan who was celebrating. "We're the kings of Africa now."