Some seven miles up the road from Cairo International Stadium, heading for Cairo International Airport, we hit the Cairo Military Academy Stadium at the far end of Orouba Street in the north-eastern Heliopolis district of Cairo. The top tier from the nearby cake walking spaghetti-junction provides a spectacular birds eye view from the ground if not obstructed by the occasional overtaking taxi or pick-up truck.
Locally known as Estad El Koleya El Harbeya it holds approx 30,000 and was built in 1989 for the use of military teams and students at the military academy. The stadium hosted a plethora of matches for the African Cup of Nations in 2006, including the infamous encounter between Drogba’s Ivory Coast and Eto’o’s Cameroon that ended in an almost unprecedented penalty series. The ground accommodated home games of Al Ahly and Zamalek during the refurbishing of the Cairo International Stadium and occasionally still serves to stage matches of the old foes.
Unfortunately the stadium, set in the mind boggling huge premises of the buzzing metropolis’ military academy, conjures up visions of a soulless and uninviting concrete bowl with only a small roof extension serving as a cover for the main stand. On demand, during matches rent-a-crowd military cadets serve as ground-fillers in addition to the sparse paying spectators for football matches.
Irrespective of the stadium name one encounters safety measures that baffle the eye and common sense. TV gantries are set up on escape routes, obstructing safe movement within the ground and army and security people seem more concerned about their own free pathways and view than those of paying visitors. With morbid precision beyond belief people are being ordered by security forces to literally climb over spectators who in their turn block the view from the stairways.
Fences and security people are here to cage you in like animals. The overwhelming presence of police, army and security forces make for an intimidating and extremely inhospitable atmosphere.
Any sheer incompetent and responsible body in charge should be obliged to take knowledge of the evaluation of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield, England, causing the death of almost a hundred hapless souls.
Only a stampeding crowd with resulting casualties may knock some sense into the stadium’s irresponsible bodies. Or rather ignite to have the ditch that surrounds the pitch filled with piranha’s and crocodiles by senseless authorities to create an even more hostile decorum.
The unimaginative Cairo Military Academy Stadium may serve as a showpiece to demonstrate governmental and dictatorial muscle power, it’s certainly doesn’t qualify as a display of the proverbial unrivalled Egyptian hospitality.