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‘I am sad at Nigeria’s growth rate despite huge resources’

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Madagascar’s players (L) and Nigeria’s players huddle during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group B football match between Madagascar and Nigeria at the Alexandria Stadium on June 30, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Despite the Pharaohs of Egypt running away as leaders in Group A that includes Uganda, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo at the ongoing Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), many Egyptians still doubt their national team’s potential to win the 36th edition of the tournament.
 
The Pharaohs are the most successful nation in Africa, having won it a record seven times.

A country known for its organisational ability, evident in the infrastructural development in both Cairo and Alexandria, it is no wonder the country’s ability to plan well for its development, which has rubbed off on her sports, especially football.

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The Guardian went round to sample the opinions of some Egyptians on what they think of the chances of their team, and other countries they think are favourites to also win the trophy.
 
Dr. Yasser, a medical doctor lounging at the Four Seasons Hotel in Alexandria, who claimed to have stayed in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016, said Egypt doesn’t have a team that can win the title.
 
“Egypt is a very good team but in my opinion the country depends a lot on two players, Mohammed Salah and Trezeguet and I don’t like it this way. What I prefer is team work, I only tip Egypt to qualify for the semifinal and after that anything can happen,” he said.
 
He picked Nigeria as one the favourites, saying he loves Nigerian football, which has produced the likes of Rashidi Yekini, Austin Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Daniel Amokachi, Sunday Oliseh and Victor Ikpeba.
 
“I know a lot about the Nigerian team, I like Nigerian football. I know famous players like Yekini, Kanu, Okocha, Ikpeba, Amokachi, Amuneke, some of the nice players in the Nigerian team then.
 
“The old team had players who were talented compared to the new team. I know that the team playing at the Alexandria Stadium is still young and doesn’t have experience, but they are good players. I like Musa in this Nigerian team, I expect him to be one of the biggest stars in this tournament,” he said.
 
Speaking on his experience while in Nigeria, Dr. Yasser said the country with huge resources at its disposal should be much better than what it is today, adding that he is disappointed with the level of development in the country.
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“I worked in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016. Nigeria is a very nice country, nice people and in my opinion one of the biggest countries in Africa. 
 
“It is supposed to be better than what it is now. It is a very rich country in mineral and human resources. Though Nigeria is progressing and improving from time to time, but that is not what is expected of a nation with her natural endowments. May be in the next few years it will be one of the best countries in Africa,” he said.
 
At a shopping mall in Alexandria, one of the biggest in the city, which is beside the Mediterranean Sea, an Egyptian lady, who preferred to be anonymous, said she would only tip the Pharaohs only for the semifinal berth.
 
“I think we will get to the semifinals, but I doubt if we are going to win the cup. I think Tunisia is powerful and has a stronger team to face Egypt. 
 
“Even though we have Salah and we are playing in our country, which is a strong point for us, I suspect we have many weak points. We are counting more on the strength of Mo Salah, which in my point of view is not good enough,” she said.
 
Also at the Alexandria mall, one Hakeem also dismissed Egypt’s chances of winning the tournament, saying the team is not strong enough.
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“Egypt is not a strong team and I don’t like to watch football, but to play football,” he said adding that another team he believes has a chance is Nigeria.
 
“Nigeria is a good team, one of the teams to win this championship. I don’t know any player in the Nigerian team in Alexandria,” he submitted.
 
Selim, who runs a shop also at the Alexandria mall, said the Egyptians loved Nigerian football in the days when the country dominated African football.
 
“Egyptians follow Nigerian football, especially the ones playing in the European clubs. We also know those that played for the country in the past years, those who are very famous like Yekini, Amokachi, J.J. Okocha, Kanu, Finidi and others. Ahmed Musa is also famous in the world,” he said.
 
At the Alexandria Citadel the opinions on the chances of the Egyptian team winning the title was overwhelming, as some youths chorused, “Egypt will win, Egypt will win.”
 
However, at the ancient Roman theatre centre in Alexandria, which is one of the centres of tourism in this city, some Egyptians doubt the ability of their team to win the cup. 


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