Welcome once again to my diary for this AFCON tournament, in case you’re just coming on board because it is starting a little too late. My second day in Egypt was going to be a full one and thankfully it ended with some sort of real excitement and disappointment.
It was going to be match day (Nigeria vs Cameroon) and it turned out to be a completely full day: 12am to 11:59pm day for me. After arriving in Cairo late on Friday evening, I proceeded immediately to Alexandria as I hinted in yesterday’s diary. You can read it here.
I got an Uber for the three-hour trip which cost 1,200 Egyptian pounds (about 100 dollars).
The journey started at about 11:58pm so we were programmed to get to Alexandria by 3:00am (all local times). Well, I’ve travelled through night buses in Nigeria (twice) previously, before I decided never to do such again because of its risks but there is an indeed a complete contrast between Nigeria’s night waka and the Egyptian own.
I’ve been to North Africa before (Morocco in January last year) so I know what to expect in terms of development and entertainment. I also know what their infrastructure is expected to be like so I didn’t even think twice when I was told by colleagues in Alexandria to get an Uber.
The journey was a dream of Night journeys. It was the perfect way to welcome me into “the Country that never sleeps”. Lagos should indeed, come and learn work here. Aside the normal traffic jam inside Cairo which meant we were still inside the capital city for about one hour of the journey, the vehicular movement to and fro both sides of the road was very interesting to me.
Our Uber driver sought permission to light his cigar and even offered me one (you can guess my reply to the latter), he got his permission though so while myself and my chatty co-traveller tried to sleep “a liru” in Lasisi Elenu’s voice, the driver cruised on with top speed in a busy road all the way from Cairo to Alexandria that it just felt like a 7pm journey in Nigeria.
We got to Alexandria at about 2:55am and were received by Tobi Adepoju and Busayo Olowookere at the Café Ciliano. We went up (17th floor) of the building and there it all started. A little rest, a little argument in the morning about team lineup with Pooja et al and a little breakfast – bread and tea with some omelette – before heading to the stadium about 1pm.
I was fortunate to get my accreditation sorted within ten minutes at the stadium’s Accreditation centre, got to the Media Centre which was already full to pick up my Lunch Pack for the game but when I got to the Media Stand inside the stadium, I was disappointed.
First, the Alexandria Stadium wasn’t what I’ve been seeing in pictures and on TV. I met a small, medieval structure which did not match my expectations. I was grossly disappointed by the Media Stand which had no tables for journalists nor TV monitors (except for TV commentators) so there was no benefit of replays for us – in a major tournament.
Well, the Eagles won as I expected and it brought real excitement to the Nigerian journalists – many were absolutely scared before the game that I didn’t understand why. We proceeded to the Eagles hotel immediately after the match where Super Eagles media officer Toyin Ibitoye donated his dinner to Nigerian journalists.
Of course, he thanked me for bringing the luck like I did in Morocco and Russia so, about five or six of us enjoyed what I called “Meal of Victory” – Jollof rice, bananas and some chicken wings. AY Sugar, Victor Modo, Pooja, Bibian, Joseph, Busayo and myself were among those that enjoyed it.
I saw the second half of Egypt vs South Africa at poolside and was delighted that the South Africans won to set up another meeting with them. We got back to our hotel at about midnight Egyptian time to strategise for how our journey would be the next day.
And the evening, and the morning were the second day.