The Stadium and the Street: Joys of Watching Football in Street Cafes
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Football in Egypt is big. Egypt's star players are praised as heroes, and every city and town across the country shuts down with traffic deadlock for any major match, as people rush to street cafes to catch kick-off.
You will know when if there is a match on for sure. You will hear people talking about it throughout the day, you'll see shops closing early so they can grab a good seat in the cafe, and you will certainly hear it when it starts.
While football in some cultures is enjoyed primarily on a home television, in Egypt it is an entirely communal affair, put up on large screens in every street cafe. The space for cars in the centre of the road quickly diminishes, as more chairs are squeezed in for fans.
Even for those who aren't fans of football, the mood and excitement is infectious. Squeezed into a cafe with shisha and tea in hand, cheering along, it's a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours.
Previously, attendance of fans at football stadiums in Egypt was banned. Commenting on this situation, and how I'd like to eventually attend an Egyptian match in person, a friend at a street cafe pointed around to the crowd cheering and chanting, and insisted that in Egypt, football at a street cafe is the event, it is "live" football. He was right and remains so despite the laxing of the rules regarding attending football matches.
Finding out about an upcoming match is easy, you just need to ask around a little. In addition to Egypt's national team, screens will be set up for games with the major Egyptian clubs, namely Al-Ahly and Zamalek. Liverpool matches also pack every cafe in the city full, due to Egypt's star player Mo Salah playing as their top striker. While every cafe in the city will be showing it, I personally always prefer to watch football matches in Downtown, but you can find a screen anywhere. So head to your favourite your cafe and learn some chants!