UK's PM vows to keep tax cutting plan    China's central bank alerts against yuan speculation    Egyptian gecko invades Israel    Gold prices in Egypt on September 29    Egypt welcomes back Russian flights on 1st October    Egypt launches 200 Years of Continuing Science tourism campaign    Egypt, UAE partner on sustainable waste management in Sharm el-Sheikh ahead of COP27    Saudi King appoints Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as Prime Minister    QNB Group names TikToker Khaby Lame official FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 brand ambassador    Egypt receives second monkeypox case    Egypt ready to build up international centre for storage, supply and trade grains – minister    Three possible scenarios as Egypt's central bank governor resigns – MP    Adele is living a love story, wants to be a homemaker    In Photos: Egypt swears in 13 new ministers after major Cabinet reshuffle    Egypt's Sisi names 13 ministers in Cabinet reshuffle    Spain: prosecutor seeks 8 years sentence for Shakira over tax evasion    Egypt: Alamein Art Festival kicks off a collection of recycled installations    Egypt's athlete Basma Emad wins bronze in weightlifting in Mediterranean Games    Maha karara joins AAIB as Head of Corporate Communications, Sustainability    Egypt works on charting cooperation strategies with international institutions for 5 years: Al-Mashat    Over 2.4 million newborns examined for hearing impairment: Health Ministry    Netflix releases trailer of Arab adaption of 'Perfect Strangers' film    Balqees to headline concert celebrating launch of streaming giant LIVENow in MENA    Sawsan Badr to be honoured at Aswan Women Film Festival    MP Abdel Hady Al-Qasby calls government to facilitate and support NGOs    Al-Sisi follows up on 'Great Transfiguration Project' in St. Catherine    Cairo, London stress need to strengthen cooperation to face climate change    Foreigners account for 22.6% of Egypt's T-bills issuances in 1H 2021: CBE    Egypt's ambassador to Italy passes away    Egypt confirms readiness to help African countries face terrorism and extremism    An estimated 235 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021, an increase of 40% compared to 2020: IOM Egypt    Egypt, DRC discuss water cooperation during WYF    Egypt, DR Congo discuss boosting bilateral cooperation during WYF    Cameroonian police probe assault on three Algerian journalists covering AFCON    Pharaohs start AFCON 2021 campaign with fierce clash against Nigeria    Foreign Ministry opens capacity building course for French-speaking African diplomats    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egypt's FM asserts importance of stability in Libya, holding elections as scheduled    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Winning is everything
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 06 - 2019

The person who once said winning isn't everything probably never won anything. Winning is everything.
And so, with that ruthless mantra as motivation, the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (now known as AFCON) is about to descend on Egypt. And Egyptians of all stripes are waiting to win.
But 100 million Egyptians cannot will Egypt to win. To take the AFCON, Egypt will have to be better than so-so. It must be better than above average, better than good, better than just very good. In its report card Egypt will have to get an A. It must be the best of the rest. Second best simply won't do.
As the legendary American Football Coach Vince Lombardi put it: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.” Truer words never rang louder. To win, Egypt will have to be right all the time.
From the strict vantage point of facts, it shouldn't be incredibly difficult for Egypt to lift the trophy. It has performed better in AFCON than any other country. It has won AFCON seven times, a record, and at one time three in a row, another continental first.
But that is past tense. Whether Egypt can win it — right now — is a whole new kettle of fish.
For starters, let's get rid of the fallacy that a host country has some sort of automatic pass to the title. It doesn't. Eleven countries that hosted the AFCON have won it; 20 hosts did not.
It's worse in the World Cup. The hosts have won football's greatest prize seven times. But they lost it 15 times.
Football is strewn with host countries that failed to take the grand prize on their own turf. The most famous recent example has got to be Brazil when it played host to the 2014 World Cup. The most successful country in the history of football could not reach the final, going down in the semi-final in that extraordinary 7-1 demolition against Germany.
As well, Germany, history's second best football country, could not get the brass ring when it staged the World Cup in 2006.
Back home, Egypt had to settle for third place when AFCON was played with the Pyramids next door in 1974.
The good news is that of the four times Egypt hosted AFCON, it won three of them (avowed cynics are quick to point out that in one of those tournaments, 1959, there were only three teams, Egypt included).
The point is, whereas it's pleasant and all to host a tournament, there's no guarantee you'll have your cake and eat it too. Many times there lurks a party pooper.
Continuing on the matter, hosting is a double-edged sword. The fans have your back when you're doing great but will demand the death penalty when you're not. They love you when you're winning. Off with your head when not.
The Japanese, for instance, because they are a polite people, cheer on their team from the first second to the last, no matter the score. They pledge allegiance to their country, win or lose.
Notwithstanding the Japanese, most sports fans in the world are a fickle lot, but there's a surplus in Egypt where the loyalty of so many people is prefaced, not to the nation, but to the Egyptian pound bill. By extension, their fealty goes only as far as what Egypt can do for them, in this case winning the AFCON. Anything less and the fans will start screaming for their money back.
It should be noted that Egyptian fans also have a tendency to go to an important game hours before the kick-off. They whip themselves up into such a frenzy that by the time the game starts, they are as useless as a wet Kleenex. Hard to galvanise the players when their supporters need CPR.
At any rate, it must be remembered that Egypt was not supposed to host this AFCON. Cameroon snared the privilege first but was later adjudged not ready to host. So if there was pressure on Egypt to win, that burden multiplied after Egypt was selected as the new venue for this championship.
The pressure to win will be unbelievable, maybe unbearable. The expectations will be great, so great that players without the experience to deal with such a cauldron could wilt under the enormous strain.
Many Egyptian players are not used to playing in front of big crowds. The 2012 domestic league soccer riot that killed 72 people forced most league games up until today to be played behind closed doors. Seven years of playing to empty seats has dulled the senses.
Nine players on Egypt's current squad played in last year's Russia World Cup. As such, they have some experience under their belt, but it also means that almost two-thirds of the team do not have this advantage of playing under an intense spotlight. True, these players, whether in their clubs abroad or the locals who play in African club tournaments, do perform to standing room only stadiums. But they don't have the experience of playing in Egypt's colours in front of a packed house, like that of Cairo Stadium which holds a hefty 74,100 capacity. The difference is huge.
Along with this pressure-cooker atmosphere are the countries aiming just as high as Egypt. There are seven countries in this AFCON ranked by FIFA higher than Egypt's 57th place in the world: Senegal (23), Tunisia (28), Nigeria (42), Morocco (45), DR Congo (46), Ghana (49), and Cameroon (54).
Nine countries in AFCON have won the cup at least once. Cameroon bagged it five times, Ghana four, Nigeria thee and Ivory Coast and DR Congo two apiece. They've been there, done that and know what it takes to win it.
However, at least history-wise, Egypt is due. In the 62 years that AFCON has been in existence, Egypt has won the trophy an average of almost once every nine years. The last title was, indeed, in 2010 — nine years ago.

Clic here to read the story from its source.