How to watch World Cup matches a puzzle
By Amira Sayed:
As the FIFA World Cup matches of 2018 near their start, Egyptians wait impatiently to watch their beloved team compete in this international competition from which the team has been absent for 28 years.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Khaled Abdel Aziz, has said that there are negotiations to broadcast the world cup matches via Egyptian TV. It seems, however, that these negotiations reached deadlock due to the hefty cost of buying the broadcast rights which are more than 25 million dollars.
These rights have been monopolised by a Qatari sports network. Egyptians must pay a subscription to watch the matches via these channels. Compounding the problem an Israeli channel has announced it will air these matches free of charge for Egyptians, which brings politics close to sports, further irking Egyptian football fans.
Speaking to The Egyptian Gazette, Tharwat Sweilam, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), said that it is still unconfirmed whether these matches will be aired via sate TV. "The cost of broadcast rights is the main obstacle. And one should bear in mind the ongoing development of Maspero. State TV cannot bear an extra financial burden currently.”
Regarding the Israeli channel announcement, Hala Saad MP, said it is an attempt to influence Egyptians. "Egyptians are fully aware of such attempts and won't fall for this one. Arab countries should unite to buy the broadcast rights taking into consideration that football has not became merely a game. It has become a source of pride for all countries," she told The Gazette.
The World Cup competition is to start on June 14. Egyptians were over the moon when the national team defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo, booking its ticket to Russia, the host country of the World Cup.
Egypt has qualified for the World Cup three times. The first time was in 1934 in Italy. It was the first edition of the competition and there were no qualification matches. Playing in 1990 in Italy, Egypt qualified for the second time. In the looming 2018 World Cup, Egypt is in Group A, which includes Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and the host country, Russia.
The Gazette hit the streets to ask Egyptians how they are going to watch such long-awaited matches. Such important matches of the national team are considered peak season for coffee shops that have become boon for football fans.
"We are not surprised that the matches will not be aired via Egyptian channels like the matches of the Africa Cup of Nations that were monopolised by a certain channel,” Mohamed Fathi, owner of a coffee shop in Maadi, told The Gazette. “But we are preparing to provide our guests with high-quality services so they can truly enjoy such a historic moment.
"Of course, there will be a minimum charge especially for the airing of important matches to control the number of customers. Otherwise, the coffee shop would be overcrowded and out of control. People have to bear in mind that we also pay the channel's subscription. We are not greedy.”
Naser Allam, a father of two, said that it is the basic right for Egyptians who won’t afford travel expenses to support their team to have a place to watch these important matches. "I hope the Sports Ministry will set up screens in youth and Olympic centers to save us from the soaring bills of coffee shops," he said.