A few days ago, the British newspaper The Mirror, put the Cairo International Stadium among seven stadiums in the world that can host the UEFA Champions League final in the future. This was not a coincidence, as the history of the stadium has given it a world-class reputation.
The Cairo International Stadium is the official stadium of the Egyptian football team, founded in 1958 under the name of Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was renewed in 2004 at a cost of EGP 150,000. This stadium hosted the 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final, which was won by Egypt. Its capacity then reached 74,100 spectators.
The Cairo International Stadium is the first of its kind with Olympic standards in the Middle East and Africa. It is located in the Nasr City, northeast Cairo. It was designed by the German architect Werner Marsh, the same architect who designed the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which hosted the Olympic Games in 1936. The stadium was completed in 1960 and inaugurated by the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser at the July revolution celebrations of the same year.
In 2005, the Cairo Stadium was developed according to the new Olympic standards for the 21st century. The stadium is located about 10 km from Cairo International Airport and 30 km from downtown Cairo.
The Cairo Stadium has a significant importance in the Egyptian sports history, hosting the major sports events in Egypt, such as the Clasico between Al Ahly SC and Zamalek SC.
As Egypt prepares to host the 2019 AFCON in June, Daily News Egypt visited the Cairo Stadium to see its preparations for the tournament on the ground.
Mohamed Hamdy is an Egyptian actor who starred in Wahed Min El Nas film (One of the People) and several series, such as Esm Moakat (Temporary Name), Rakam Maghoul (Unknown Number), and Kafr Delhab. Daily News Egypt interviewed him, not for his acting career, but for being the Chairperson of Nefertari Company, which is tasked to develop the Cairo Stadium.
Nefertari is an Egyptian joint stock company established in 2005. It is specialised in sports constructions, such as playgrounds and lounges. The most important of its projects were the Giftun Hurghada Stadiums, Smouha Sporting Stadiums, Savoy Hotel Stadiums in Sharm El Sheikh, and the Equestrian Stadium in Cairo Stadium – the company is the first in Egypt to specialise in this type of stadiums – along with Mountain View, Shooting Club, and New Maadi stadiums.
The company always relies on foreign experts in its work. It is also a local agent for many European companies from Germany, France, and Spain, such as Javier and Emilio Sanchez, which operates in 95% of the world’s largest tennis courts. It is also specialised in equestrian. (Sánchez-Casal Academy)
The company has 35 employees, trained by foreign experts, so that they can perform at a high level of quality.
The transcript of the interview follows, lightly edited for clarity: When has the development work of the Cairo Stadium begun?
We started the development of the Cairo Stadium in July 2018. We did not expect Egypt to host the African Cup of Nations. The work started with analysing the soil of the pitch in European laboratories to select the best grass type to be planted there. We then began working on the drainage, irrigation, and pumps. Irrigation is carried out automatically, as in the largest stadiums in the world.
When will it be ready?
It will be ready on 15 May. Given the current status of the pitch, we can use it for matches now. The winter seeds are 100% grown. The development is carried out through a scientific method as we mixed winter and summer seeds and added some industrial materials.
How was your company assigned to develop the stadium?
The Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Cairo Stadium Authority communicated with the French company Tarkett to carry out the development of the stadium, and it happens that my company is the local agent of Tarkett in Egypt. Accordingly, the company was hired. We established a warehouse for the company’s equipments at a cost of EGP 500,000 that we paid ourselves. We also utilized the best machines that cost EGP 6m imported from Japan. There are English experts to oversee the work here.
What advantages does the company offer to the stadium?
The company offers a 15-year guarantee of the pitch. It will be suitable to host 1,000 hours per day. The stadium must be rested though.
How much was your profit from the project?
Working on the development of Cairo Stadium was not financially beneficial. On the contrary, we lost EGP 2m. But the company intends to introduce this type of flooring to Egypt. There are two stadiums in Saudi Arabia and Dubai using it, as well as in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. This type has been used since 1989 in all the pitches of England and Spain. Working on the Cairo Stadium is a chance for the company to market itself in the private sector.
Would you do anything else other than flooring?
The company will install 30,000 seats at a cost of EGP 25m, including 2,064 VIP seats that will be imported from Spain. Stadia will install the remaining seats. This is one of the most difficult phases and needs much work. Developing the track would be the final stage. The company will also install new screens using Korean experts.
How much does the development process cost?
The total cost of the Cairo Stadium’s development is about EGP 50m.
How many workers are working there?
The company has 65 workers in the stadium.
Do you have enough time to complete all these tasks?
There are currently eight companies working on the development of Cairo Stadium and they aare doing their best to finish the work before the tournament.
How was the work for your company under this pressure?
The pressure in this type of work is not normal. It is not easy to deprive workers of their vacations for four months. I think working under such conditions is very difficult.
Are there any notes from the Confederation of African Football?
The CAF committees are satisfied with the work. They know our company very well and the quality we can provide.
What is your response to the criticisms?
I hope that the media will investigate the accuracy of what we are carrying out. Some of the reports convey some news without being confirmed, which costs a lot and expose the families of the workers to financial crises.