CAIRO: After a troublesome journey to get tickets for the African Cup of Nations final, I arrived at the stadium last Friday holding my ticket. Standing amid hundreds of others . Just holding our tickets. We were denied entrance on the grounds that the stadium was full.
They were right; the stadium was packed. In fact, the part referred to as 1st Class Left, was packed to the point that standing room was non-existent. The lucky ones were able to sit on concrete steps. The question is; if hundreds were standing outside the stadium with their tickets and others, also with tickets, couldn’t find seats, then who took the seats in the stadium?
Did all the seated people have tickets? If yes, then this means that hundreds of extra tickets were officially printed and sold, exceeding the capacity of the stadium. If the answer is no, then the organizers had let hundreds in without tickets.
Regardless of the answer, one fact remains the same. Hundreds of people, at least from where I was standing, had purchased tickets for LE 300 each (according to official prices) and couldn’t get in.
Crushed between the angry crowd and the lines of security forces, I started (with hope) that we would be let in eventually. We tried to get the high ranking officers who were standing 10 meters behind the security soldiers blocking our way to explain to us what is going on, but no avail. Throughout my two-hour wait, a couple of officers briefly told us “the stadium is filled, turned their backs, and left us screaming for explanation.
Reportedly, others faced the same experience in another spot leading to the same first class bleachers. One eyewitness estimated that over a thousand were denied entrance at this particular spot – in El Fangary Street. I was standing at the entrance of the same street from El Nasr Road.
I ended up watching the game from the TV screen at my aunt’s living room. When the Egyptian team won, it was a relief . The celebrations on the streets were uplifting to say the least. But the next day, the idea that I’d just lost LE 1500 (five tickets for friends including me) hit me.
I called the Egyptian Football Federation asking for an explanation. The first time, they referred me to the ministry of youth that in turn referred me to the administration for the Cairo stadium. They didn’t know anything about the issue.
I called the federation again. This time someone who identified himself as Ahmed Eid told me that the organizers weren’t responsible for the evening. Eid explained that in any event that the president attends, national security takes charge – President Hosni Mubarak attended the event with several high ranking government officials. Thus, if anyone was able to get in without tickets, it is the responsibility of the security authorities, Eid added.
The ministry of interior was my next stop. The ministry’s spokesperson said he doesn’t have information about this particular incident and referred me to the Cairo Security Authority, as this was the entity responsible for the event.
The answer I got was no different from what I had been hearing throughout the day: The Cairo Security Authority is not responsible. Without identifying himself over the phone, the man who answered me briefly said that that the championship organizers are to blame for any mishap.
Thus, all the parties involved in organizing the championship and especially the final game that took place on Feb. 10 deny responsibility – my only resort was to email Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) and I am still waiting for their answer. But I can’t help wondering: If no one in Egypt is responsible, who was organizing the game on that day? The most important question, at least for me, is will I ever get my money back? Will the other hundreds who stood peacefully for hours holding their tickets and demanding an explanation at the very least get their money back?
Will those responsible be identified and penalized? Will someone even investigate what happened?