EGYPT: Football fans want revenge in another showdown with Algeria
The African Cup of Nations is set to stage yet another passionate, incendiary confrontation between North Africa's fiercest soccer rivals when Egypt and Algeria clash in the semifinal round Thursday in Benguela, Angola.
Egypt is eager to erase the ghosts of November, when Algeria defeated Egypt to win a place in this summer's World Cup in South Africa. November was a bruising, tense time of riots, recriminations, battling fans and diplomatic furor that both nations hope will not erupt later this week. But that remains to be seen.
Since then, some Egyptians have been calling for a boycott of relations with their fellow Arab nation. Failing to reach the World Cup was a huge blow for millions in Egypt, who in recent years, and in the middle of financial and political frustrations, have found their pride in soccer glory.
Many Egyptians regard Thursday's game as a chance to get back at the Algerians, who in their eyes demolished the dream of seeing one of Egypt's best soccer generations miss out at a place at the world's most prestigious tournament.
"I wasn’t really keen on following this year's African Cup, but now that we will face Algeria, it will be the sweetest revenge if we beat them and reach the final," says engineer Mohamed Khallaf. "They stole happiness from under our noses. Reaching the World Cup was something expected to bring happiness to millions of struggling Egyptians."
Despite fans' feelings towards the Algeria game, Egypt defender Wael Gomaa stressed that facing Algeria will be like meeting any other African opponent: "We are not looking for revenge. All we want is to reach the final and win the competition to compensate the fans for failing to reach the World Cup."
The Egyptian national soccer team holds a record six African championships, including back-to-back trophies in 2006 and 2008.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Egyptian soccer fans. Credit: Amgad Fadel / BBC