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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Egypt: A matter of pride
Hicham Azmy
Hicham Azmy is leading Egypt's bid
Egypt are pinning their hopes of hosting Africa's first football World Cup in 2010 on political stability in a region dogged by violence.

Egyptians also expect a developed tourism infrastructure and long history in the sport to help swing the vote in their favour.

There are fears that Egypt cannot afford the massive undertaking involved in hosting the world's second most biggest sporting event after the Olympics.

But officials behind the bid say the 2010 tournament could be just the medicine the North African country's ailing economy needs.

Egypt has tentatively budgeted US$1.5 billion to prepare for the tournament. It is estimated hosting the World Cup will generate nearly US$2 billion from the money visiting fans will spend on hotels, travel, meals and souvenirs.

No one wants to go watch or play a match where there are 400 people watching
Ihab Shalaby
After impressive growth in the 1990s, Egypt's economy began to slump toward the end of the decade, inflation rose and the local currency gradually fell.

But the country has been spared the violent attacks seen in nearby Syria, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia over the past two years.

Egypt's 10-member World Cup bid committee believes this will persuade Fifa to make them the first African hosts of the World Cup.

"Egypt is a land of peace... We're a nation that lives in peace even with our cousins the Israelis," said bid committee member and former Egyptian player Ihab Shalaby.

Shalaby said the location of the Arab world's most populous nation at the junction of three continents and the popularity of football were positive factors.

"No one wants to go watch or play a match where there are 400 people watching.

"We have a population almost equal to the total of all our competitors and we will fill every stadium.

Egypt's 2010 bid logo
"Football is the biggest sport here. We have Al Ahli club - the African club of the century.

"Football is not the biggest sport in South Africa. If it was the rugby World Cup, then I would understand.

"We also have the lowest crime rate in the whole region, unlike some of our bidding friends."

But Shalaby fears the decision might not be based on merit alone, as South Africa lost to Germany by just one vote in the race for the 2006 competition.

"Of course there are vested interests and politics involved. But on paper it's unfair to have to compete against Egypt in Africa. We are the obvious choice," he said.

Key facts about Egypt

Area: 1m square kilometres
Population: 70.3 million
Capital: Cairo (16 million inhabitants)
President: Hosni Mubarak
Language: Arabic
Football Association founded: 1921
Joined Fifa: 1923
Joined Caf: 1957 (founder member)
Clubs: 542
Registered footballers: 272,472

Notable fact: Egypt were the first African country to take part in the World Cup finals in 1934 in Italy. Their only match in the finals ended in a 4-2 defeat to Hungary.

Egypt also hosted the Under-17 World Championship in 1997. The 2006 African Nations Cup finals will be held in Egypt.

Officials in Cairo take pride in the fact that Egypt became the first African country to join Fifa in 1923.

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