CAIRO: Thousands of Egyptians descended on Cairo airport Monday morning to catch a glimpse of their football heroes returning from Ghana after securing their second consecutive African title.
Although the Pharaohs were only seen for a few seconds from their passing bus, that didn’t prove an impediment to the throng of supporters eager to express their joy at the team’s recapturing the African title in a 1-0 lead over Cameroon.
A goal by Mohamed Abou Trika was enough to clinch the tournament and spark celebrations in Egypt as well as in Egyptian and Arab communities the world over.
The victory Sunday night sparked wild scenes of celebrations immediately after the game as tens of thousands took to the streets, dancing, singing, waving flags and setting off fireworks.
Match winner Abou Trika made headlines earlier in the tournament when he revealed a shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Sympathize with Gaza after scoring his second goal against Sudan. Subsequently, residents in Gaza celebrated Egypt’s triumph as if it were their own.
Terrestrial Channel One showed Arabs rejoicing on the streets of New York City after the game, celebrating in much the same way people did in Cairo, but in smaller numbers.
The victory was also celebrated in many Arab countries, who have twinned this victory with the Iraqi victory in the Asian Cup as two symbols of Arab nationalism.
Wael Ghoneim was one of the many Egyptians who flew to Ghana to catch the final game. He also returned on the same plane as the Egyptian national team, which was delayed for two hours before take off.
“The atmosphere at the stadium for the final was fantastic, he told Daily News Egypt, “there were 1,500 Egyptians and after the game we celebrated and headed to the team’s hotel to celebrate with them.
Ghoneim spent the night celebrating with tournament stalwarts such as Shady Mohamed, player of the tournament Hosni Abd Rabu and the man who set up the winning goal Mohamed Zidan.
Ghoneim added that Ghana and Cameroon supporters had their pictures taken with goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary and Abou Trika, whom they referred to as the magician.
Abou Trika is also known as the “smiling assassin.
Of the game itself, Ghoneim said, “We were tense before the goal (which came in the 77th minute) and we were worried that the players were tiring but then we scored and our spirits were raised [as were the teams ]. Of course we were worried that they might equalize and we were playing defense for the last 15 minutes.
The players arrived in Cairo the following morning and were met by President Hosni Mubarak, who delayed a trip to the United Arab Emirates in order to personally congratulate the players.
Team captain Ahmed Hassan told reporters in the airport that “this trophy is for the fans, it is for them and they are the ones who deserve it.
Striker Amr Zaki, who netted four times in Ghana, said, “It was a dream for us to win this tournament twice.
Egypt Coach Hassan Shehata, the mastermind behind the victory, is only the second coach in the tournament’s history to reclaim the title. He said, “Thanks be to God, this is a blessing from God who enabled us to please 75 million Egyptians.
Egypt defeated Cameroon in Ghana by a solitary goal in the final of the African Cup of Nations to be crowned champions for the second time in a row after winning in Egypt in 2006.
This is Egypt’s sixth triumph making them the undisputed champions of the continent, two ahead of next in line Cameroon who have four titles