Swila Isaac, live in Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, the teeming city of some 19.5 million souls, the capital of Egypt, is literally red six hours to the kick off of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
The hosts, Pharaohs, tackle Zimbabwe Warriors in the opening match of the continental showpiece that is primed to kick off here at 10pm, 11pm in Nairobi with excitement reaching fever pitch.
On the streets, the army of football mad fans, professing their love for their football team is discernible.
They are not only draped in the Egyptian flag, but some have chosen to paint their cheeks with white and red colours which are synonymous with the national flag.
In and around the Cairo International Stadium, the venue of today’s match, security is tight with members of the disciplined force – police and military– leaving nothing to chance.
At every gate, thorough screening is done, and even accredited journalists like yours truly are not spared.
It’s however the noise inside the imposing facility, a 74,000 seater stadium that is impressive.
The fans, keen to profess their undying love for their team are charged and determined, and one is left to wonder how the situation will be by the time their football god Mohamed ‘Mo’ Salah struts out of the dugout with team-mates in tow.
A taxi driver by the name Ahmad, a fan of the Pharaohs, tells me that they want nothing but success. “We are the hosts and we should win it, that is what matters to us,” he told yours truly with the conviction of a priest outside the match venue.
The Pharaohs have claimed Africa’s top football prize a record seven times and will be aiming to add another title to its bulging trophy cabinet by the time the curtains come down on the extravaganza on July 19.
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