What to do if you want to kick like your heroes
Let’s admit it, every armchair supporter of the world’s greatest game (that’s football, otherwise known as soccer to US residents) wishes he were in place of his favorite hero when they come to score that winning goal, or keeping their team in the scrap with an acrobatic save.
And so on any sort of green or asphalt surface anywhere, one can be Ronaldinho, Henry, Zidane or Buffon. Fantasies are recreated in much more humble circumstances, but recreated nevertheless.
The only problem is that Cairo is a massive smorgasbord of high rise concrete and low rise brick. However, that will not stop the ardent supporter from reenacting Zidane’s 2002 Hampden volley that clinched the Champions League, or Beckham’s Wimbledon goal from the halfway line or even Gordon Bank’s across the goalmouth save from none other than Pele’s head.
This brought about the concept of the club. Not like a western club (well maybe a Spanish one), but rather a combination of sports club and social club. The big ones are the Gezira Club, Heliopolis Club and Sporting Club. The biggest in size is the Shams Club. These clubs have many pitches, grass or otherwise, on which one can have a kickabout. The catch is you have to be a member, or know a member who can get you in.
Difficult when you’re trying to get enough people to make up two or three teams. Not all will be members in the same clubs. So what else is out there?
Well, the real estate boom that pushed the city outwards inadvertently helped. All the new mini-cities or communal enclosures for the well off have been built with an upper-crust customer in mind. Therefore, there is a premium on green spaces. And for green spaces read pitches to get muddy in.
For example you can use the pitch at Al Rehab Club for a LE 5 entry fee and an additional LE 2 per person to set up a game. Further down from Al Rehab along the Suez highway is the city of Shurook, specifically a place called Mayfair. An entry fee of LE 10 per person and a combined LE 150 for the pitch will get you going.
If you’re unable to travel along Cairo’s highways to reach the new cities, then you will either have to have access to a club or fight it out for a reservation at the Tala’eh pitches in Heliopolis. There are two locations for these army run pitches; one behind the Air Force Hotel and another in Jisr Al Suez in Heliopolis.
The advantage of Tala’eh is that it is open for all. The disadvantage of that is that it is constantly packed, and demand is huge. It’s LE 1.50 at the door and LE 3 per person for a game.
Failing all that, a garden in the middle of the road or a quiet street will do. All you need is a ball really. Just watch out for the cars.
In any case, next time you’re slugging it out to win the World Cup, and thus achieve glory for your nation and have your name cemented in the annals of football folklore, remember that it’s more than just a game, it’s a passion.