Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cairo rejoices over African Cup win over Ghana

By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Cairo

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian football fans took to the streets of Cairo to celebrate their team's victory in the final of the African Cup of Nations.


Supporters took to the streets of Cairo to celebrate the win over Ghana

Their victory over Ghana makes it an unprecedented three titles in a row.

As soon as referee Koman Coulibaly, from Mali, had blown the final whistle, an all-night street party was under way in the capital.

The night sky filled with the sound of horns and fireworks, and the Egyptian flag was proudly displayed from almost every car that took to the streets.

"I am so proud of my team," said a delighted Walid Hassan.

"We have won the African Cup three times in a row now and this is a record, something that should make every Egyptian proud," he said.

Outside the Al-Ahly club, one of the two big Cairo teams, a crowd had gathered to celebrate together.

"Masr! Masr!" they screamed: "Egypt, Egypt!"

"We will party all night and tomorrow night, it's wonderful. We played really well throughout the tournament and I'm so excited," remarked Loma, leaning from the window of a car, her face painted red, white and black.

"Winning was very important for us," agreed Ahmad Yousef. "We have shown the world what a fantastic team we are."

Palpable relief

Thousands of fans watched the match on a big screen in the national stadium.

There was tension throughout.

This win makes it a little bit better, but we had high hopes of competing in this World Cup
Reem Abu Tabl

The Egyptians - overwhelming favourites against a much younger, inexperienced Ghana - knew it was theirs to lose; and only minutes before super-sub Gado had scored his sublime winner, the Ghanaians had gone close on a couple of occasions.

The relief in the cafe where we were watching was palpable.

This was a final between two of the most successful nations in the African Cup.

Egypt, who have stretched their record-breaking unbeaten run at the Nations Cup to 19 games since 2004, have now won seven titles, with Ghana and Cameroon languishing far behind, on four.

And it was Egypt that dominated this year's tournament.

They beat the fancied teams like Nigeria and Cameroon, they scored 15 goals, conceding only two, and along the way they humiliated Algeria - who only two months ago before had beaten them in an ugly World Cup eliminator.

So satisfying was that 4-0 semi-final win over Algeria and the way in which the Algerians had imploded - three Algerians players were sent off - that, to most Egyptians, this had felt like the final after the final; beating the Algerians was always going to be more important than winning the tournament itself.

"This win makes it a little bit better, but we had high hopes of competing in this World Cup," said Reem Abu Tabl, who watched the match with her children.

"It's tough luck and hugely disappointing in my view that the undefeated African champions will not be there," she added.

"But this proves we are the best in Africa," said Michelle. "And it was so important to win well."

'Best of luck'

There are some, however, who wish the Algerians luck in the World Cup.

Egyptian soccer fans watching the Ghana-Egypt game on television in Cairo
Egypt was the favourite to win the match

Mohamed Walid said: "We are the African champions, that is fine for us. But we wish Algeria - the only Arab country competing in South Africa - all the best this summer. God willing, they will do us proud."

There was high praise also for the long-time Egyptian coach, Hassan Shehata, who has lifted his team after the disappointment of the past two months, and guided them to victory, even with some of his best players injured.

"We thank Mr Hassan for his professionalism," said Sherine Talab.

"He took criticism after the Algeria game but he has moulded this team into such a strong side and the country is rightly proud of him and his players."

There is no doubt that the thousands of Egyptian supporters who will flock to the airport to welcome their victorious team home, would swap all of the euphoria for a place in the World Cup finals later this year.

But perhaps the manner in which they have performed in this tournament will, at least, restore some national pride.

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