Egypt’s national football team secured a spot in next year’s World Cup with a 2-1 win over Congo, launching the nation into paroxysms of glee.
It’s a fair bet that few – if anyone – got a good night’s sleep in Cairo last night.
Egypt’s favourite son, 25-year-old forward Mohamed Salah, who plays for Liverpool in England, scored a stoppage-time penalty that sent Egypt’s Pharaoh’s to Russia for the World Cup and Egyptians around the world into a frenzy of celebration. In Cairo, that meant an endless parade of cars with honking horns and delighted fans swarming into the streets. Army helicopters dropped hundreds of red, white and black Egyptian flags on the celebrants in Tahrir Square – one of the rare occasions on which crowds have been allowed to gather there since the uprisings in 2011.
Behind the jubilation was the release of decades – 27 years, to be exact – of frustration and disappointment, as Africa’s strongest football team repeatedly failed to qualify for the quadrennial tournament. And in a country where football owns arguably as many hearts as religion (and make no mistake, this is a deeply devout nation), those losses stung deep.
The pressure was so high on Egypt’s Argentinian coach, Hector Cuper, that he had started taking blood pressure medication, the BBC reported. Lucky for him, Salah put Egypt ahead, scoring in the 63rd minute.
The euphoria from that faded when Congo levelled with four minutes left, leaving fans who thought they had lost their chance yet again with tears streaming down their faces.
The two teams were tied come 90 minutes but then, in stoppage time, a foul was called in the penalty area in the 95th minute. With the hopes of almost 100 million Egyptians riding on his left foot, Salah kicked and scored, instantaneously changing fans’ tears into roars of joy – including those of the far-from-objective Egyptian commentators.
Some fans shed tears of joy.
The evening’s talk shows reflected the jubilation on the streets. One of Egypt’s well-known hosts, Amr Adib, brought a gaggle of revellers into the studio and celebrated alongside them.
Technically, it's not all over yet: the Pharoahs still have to play Ghana on their home turf next month in the group's last fixture, but Egypt are already through regardless. And with the national team heading to Russia next year, they're likely to crash through another barrier. By the time of next year's finals, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary would at age 45 be the oldest person ever to play in a World Cup.
Date created : 2017-10-09