A KHAWAGA'S TALE: Cairenes take their seats as Chelsea clash with Man United

Peter A. Carrigan
6 Min Read

Tonight’s Champions League Final in Moscow will practically be a home game for English football team Chelsea, as the West London millionaires take on football’s favorite global brand, Manchester United.

I hear London calling, so I am barracking for the Russian-owned, Jewish-managed Chelski – as they’re affectionately known to the fans at Stamford Bridge, in London’s fashionable Chelsea.

Manchester United scored more goals this season to take the English Premier League title and conceded fewer goals than anyone else. But Chelsea have a great record at home.

The Stamford Bridge stadium and hotel are architecturally striking, but at the same time, the complex is nestled among the terrace houses and shops that line Fulham Road, as if it was designed as your favorite armchair in front of an open fire.

For over a century, ‘The Bridge,’ has been home to notorious football hooligans, though in the celebrity era, it is more the city hooligans – stockbrokers, lawyers, bankers – who can afford the £50 plus tickets.

Last Christmas I was fortunate to be invited to watch Chelsea keep their home winning streak going, when the boys in blue drew with Aston Villa 4-4 on Boxing Day. The sun broke through the wintry haze that day, though the £3.50 pre-match hamburger was a mistake, and left a gloom over my digestion long after the sun had set.

I should have learned long ago to never arrive at a sporting stadium hungry.

I can still smell the putrid curried goat at the cricket in Jamaica in 1991. And those hotdogs in New York’s Yankee stadium, I believe, are now being manufactured in China, along with all other plastic products.

But not in Japan. I watched the Hiroshima Carps take on the Osaka Tigers in 1998, on the spot where the Yanks dropped Little Boy to end the war.

There, adjacent to the Peace Park, the baseball stadium serves up a tasty bento box full of Tamagoyaki, sushi and fruit.

I wonder what dining surprises the former Moscow Olympic stadium will hold for the English fans? None probably, since Russia has been McDonaldized.

Last year, English fans met with a few unexpected surprises in Moscow though, as a number where ambushed on the motorway as they made their way to the European Cup qualifier. The mafia doesn’t miss a trick.

And if you get sucked into the pre-match hype, like I have been, the Champions League Final will be watched by millions or even one billion earthlings. Of course, it helps that it’s on a Wednesday night – I mean, what else is there to do?

In Cairo, kick-off will be 9:45 pm. Sport: we just can’t seem to get enough.

And football is the worse offender.

During the late 1980s and 1990s basketball threatened global domination. But when Michael ‘Air’ Jordan left the scene, the hangover was baggy pants and baseball caps.

Celebrities are the secret, and football’s rich harvest is dripping from the tree. One can even name famous French players.

Professional wrestling pioneered ‘sports entertainment,’ and football has taken it to a new level. For the most part, there is the players expression of skills, seen by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, which will keep the kids up past their bedtime on Wednesday.

On the dark side though, the kiddies don’t want to get involved in Italian match-fixing or the bribing of German referees. But you have to be on your guard in all professional sport that the ‘fix’ is not in, considering the cash at stake.

Traditionally, the Cairo weekend starts on a Wednesday night, so this particular Wednesday is going to be a big one. So the question is where to hunker down and watch what I predict will be a drawn final that will end after midnight with Shevchenko scoring Chelsea’s winning penalty.

In Zamalek, Versailles Café next to the AUC hostel offers a garden setting and Stella. Close by is Einstein Café, which has excellent coffee and the huge screen. In Maadi, you will no doubt find some real-life Manchurians at the Rugby Club opposite Seuodi Supermarket; and in Mohandiseen, close to the Shooting Club, is the BCA Club House and Cairo’s best-stocked bar.

The BCA in Mohandiseen is planning a big night of raffles including color TVs, Premier League sports bags and caps, mini-footballs, and huge posters of all your English Premier League players autographed by Showtime’s team of sports announcers.

Wherever you settle down to whatch the big game, you re bound to be on the edge of your seat.

For more information on the BCA raffle, call the BCA Mohandiseen on: (02) 3749 8870. Contact Peter Carrigan: [email protected]

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