Egyptians are passionate about their football clubs, especially for their winningest team in the Egyptian Premier League, Al-Ahly Sports Club. Al-Ahly, which means “national” in Arabic, was founded in 1907 by a group of students during the struggle against colonialism. The origins, based in national pride, may be the reason Al-Ahly continues to be the most popular football club in Egypt, touting to have an estimated 50 million fans.
On any game day in Cairo, you will be sure to see crowds of people sporting Al-Ahly jerseys or at least their signature red color in support. Don’t make the mistake of wearing white during the Cairo Derby, (match against arch-rivals, Zamalek) as even your cab driver will shake his head and might even go so far as to scold you for wearing the enemy color.
While most people are in fact die hard fans, nobody can top the Ultras Ahlawy. The Ultras made their game debut in April 2007 and have been demonstrating their allegiance to Al-Ahly Sports Club ever since. One of their most notable shows of support is the “Ring of Fire” where fans literally encircle Cairo stadium with fire and smoke – an impressive, and might I say seemingly dangerous, intimidation technique.
While the passion invoked by Al-Ahly is inspiring, the season feels a little like the predictable Lakers winning streak of the past decade. While it is great to see your team claim first year after year, winning loses some of the excitement when victory is essentially inevitable at the end of every season. On the other hand, there seems to be no bandwagon fans here; devotion to the team runs blood deep passing from generation to generation.
When on a visit to Egypt, I highly recommend getting yourself tickets to a match or at least watching the game in a local cafe with enthusiastic fans. It is a cultural experience not to be missed.