This morning 100 fez-festooned, flag waving, trumpet blowing Egypt fans arrived from Cairo and PUMAFootball was there to greet them. Then, just a couple of hours later, a far bigger plane landed and soon the tarmac was awash with two to three hundred boisterous Algerian fans singing their new national anthem ‘One, two, three, vive Algerie’ until the less-than-amused Angolan police squeezed them into the airport. In terms of sheer noise, enthusiasm and silly green top hats, it was a resounding victory for the Desert Foxes.
The fixture between the two teams has a bloody vein of violence running through it that dates back to a match in 1989 known as ‘The Hate Match’ because of the riots that followed. Last year, trouble erupted again as Algeria seized a place at the 2010 World Cup in Sudan at the expense of their Egyptian rivals.
Just to add a little chili to the pot, Egypt are now on course for a record-breaking third back-to-back Cup of Nations. Algeria, on the other hand, have the chance to be gleeful party poopers. Speaking exclusively to PUMAFootball, Pharoahs star striker Mohamed Zidan, summed it up dramatically last night when he said: “If we win against Algeria we get our honor back. If not, we die.”
So the stakes are high. Very high. But all the fans PUMA Football spoke to this morning made it clear that the battle should only be fought on the pitch. Egyptian film director Hazen Said, who still bore scars on his hands and wrists from their last clash, had a simple message of peace for his rivals: “Our message to Algerians is good luck. What happens in Sudan mustn’t happen again. We’re all Arab. We’re Egyptians, you’re Algerians. We’re the same. Egypt plus Algeria equals love.”