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AFCON countdown: Ticket tantrum
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 16 - 05 - 2019

Egypt continues gearing up to host the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which is scheduled to kick off on Friday 21 June and end Friday 19 July.
With a little over a month to go for the 24-nation competition, the local organising committee (LOC) is trying to ensure that all requirements of the tournament are met on time, working day and night, almost 24/7.
The stadiums come on top of priorities for the organisers since the competition is all about the pitches, whether playing or training stadiums. Six stadiums in four cities are hosting the six groups, each comprising four teams. Cairo Stadium, Al-Salam and 30 June are the three stadiums in Cairo which will host Groups A, C and D respectively. Alexandria Stadium hosts Group B, Ismailia Stadium Group E and Suez Group F.
“Work is almost done in all those stadiums. Everyone has been working, even on vacations. What remains are some finishing touches,” Mohamed Fadl, the tournament's director, said.
The former Egypt international and Ahly forward, Fadl said construction and restoration involve not only the playing stadiums but also the training stadiums. Each of the 24 teams will have their own training grounds located within a short distance of their hotels.
Alexanderia Stadium
“Our goal is to have 24 international first-class stadiums that would serve footballers after the end of the tournament,” Fadl said, adding, “these training stadiums were renovated to meet the professional requirements of an international stadium, which will, in turn, leave a strong and solid infrastructure for Egyptian football.”
Since being named as tournament director, Fadl has been touring the four cities, visiting the playing and training stadiums on a daily basis, following up with the work done and the yet to be finished.
“The reason behind these visits to the stadiums is to inspect the work to make sure everything is going well and according to the requirements. We want everything to be right and of the upmost perfection, fit to host a great event as the Africa Cup of Nations.
“We aim at delivering stadiums of an international standard, not just continental, but above that for Egypt's football legacy.
“In upgrading our stadiums, we focused on certain criteria such as improving the efficiency of the lighting and the grounds of the pitches in both the training and playing stadiums. In some stadiums we added more dressing rooms, in addition to the old ones as the requirements of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is to have at least four dressing rooms in each venue,” Fadl said.
While work in the stadiums continues smoothly, the LOC has so far not sorted out the issue of tickets. Both the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the LOC have announced that although the tournament's tickets will be available for sale online by mid-May, they have not been able to confirm the prices.
Ismailia Stadium
Three weeks ago, the LOC announced the prices of the tickets for all categories: VIP, first, second and third divisions. The prices created a frenzy on both traditional and social media outlets, especially the Egypt matches, whose tickets were seen as over-priced for the average Egyptian, especially the third division category.
So far, the tickets range from LE100 to LE2,500 (approximately $6 to $145).
Amr Al-Bortoqali, head of the tournament's tickets committee, had said the prices were fixed in coordination with the CAF to attract fans from all over the continent, adding that they were in line with prices at previous tournaments.
Ticket prices for games that don't include Egypt will be available at three levels: LE100, LE300 and LE500, while tickets for Egypt's matches will be available at LE200, LE400, LE600 and LE2,500.
According to Al-Bortoqali, each ticket will entitle the owner to attend two matches on the same day in the same stadium. However, Egyptians found them extremely expensive, especially for the third division category, home of the more enthusiastic football fans. The LOC was also accused of targeting certain category of spectators who can afford paying these sums and ignoring the middle class.
“As a student, I can't pay LE200 for Egypt's matches. It is not only the price of the ticket, but one will need at least the same amount for transportation and food and beverage. How can one afford it from our allowance?” asked Mohamed Sameh.
Apart from individuals, families also complained. Thirteen years ago, in the 2006 AFCON which Egypt hosted, Egyptian stadiums saw families returning to the stands. At that time, a family of four or five could pay a total of LE200 to attend Egyptian matches at the second or third division.
“This is not the case anymore. We can't do that now,” employee Ibrahim Hussein said. “I can't take my family to this tournament and spend at least LE1,000 just to attend one match. This amount of money is worth a week's expenses for food for the family,” Hussein said.
Interviewing the volunteers
CAF allocated 20 per cent of TV revenues and advertising rights to the organising country, with the CAF receiving 80 per cent of all the proceeds from the tournament.
The same applies to all tickets for the Nations Cup. The host country will receive 20 per cent while the African Confederation is to receive 80 per cent.
After the ticket cost announcements were made, it only took a day for Egyptians to go viral on social media with huge pressure coming from the fans and media. Controversy brought on by the high prices prompted many football fans, among whom were several celebrities, to make satirical comments, including several sports figures, the likes of Egypt's international Mohamed Salah, former Egypt international Mido, the former manager of the Saudi Cooperation Club, sports TV presenter Ibrahim Fayek, actor Mohamed Al-Bezzawi and writer and researcher Ammar Ali Hassan. The pressure forced the LOC to back up and announce that it would review the prices.
The following day, two statements were released, one from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the other from the LOC. Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi said that the LOC will reconsider ticket prices.
The statement released by Sobhi said he had discussed the issue with Egyptian Football Association President and head of the LOC Hani Abu Rida, stressing the need to provide Egyptian football fans the best possible conditions that would enable them to attend and enjoy the tournament.
The statement said Abu Rida had also decided to reconsider ticket prices “for the sake of spectator satisfaction and depicting the best possible image of Egyptian culture. The supporters are a priority and the crisis will be solved within the coming hours,” the statement said.
In the EFA statement, Abu Rida emphasised that the reassessment of ticket prices aims mainly to promote the return of football fans to the stands.
He also highlighted the importance of price reconsideration, especially of the third division, to support the national team by the presence of Egyptian fans.
Football fans in Egypt and the rest of Africa are hoping to hear back from the LOC regarding the prices of the tickets and the dates they will go on sale.
On another level, the LOC volunteers committee has been busy conducting interviews with more than 4,000 people who have applied to join the committee.
According to Gehad Amer, vice president of the LOC and head of the volunteers committee, applicants are aged 18 to 35 and will serve in the following: protocol, media services, logistics, spectator services, hospitality, gate control, security, medical and doping control, marketing and team liaison officers.
“Applicants will be selected according to their previous experience in those fields and their efficiency in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese as well as their ability to work under pressure,” she said,
“When selected, they will go through intensive training, each in their appointed field, to ensure they do their job flawlessly,” Amer added.

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