Tue, Oct 10, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Egyptians celebrate first World Cup berth in 28 years

Reuters, CAIRO

Egyptians in Cairo on Sunday celebrate their soccer team’s 2-0 victory over the Republic of the Congo that saw Egypt qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.

Photo: Reuters

Egypt’s capital on Sunday crackled with fireworks and blared with horns as the soccer-crazy nation reached the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time in 28 years as rare scenes of joy took hold of city blocks celebrating a 2-1 victory over the Republic of the Congo.

Winger Mohamed Salah scored twice, securing victory with a last-gasp penalty to put Egypt four points clear with one match left in their African Group E qualifying campaign.

The win clinched Egypt a long-awaited spot in Russia for next year’s World Cup finals, where the Arab world’s most populous nation is to compete on soccer’s ultimate stage for the first time since Italy in 1990.

“It’s been 28 years and we’re finally going to enter the World Cup. Today is a day of celebration for the entire country,” 41-year-old Gaber Fathy said.

The raucous mood spilling out onto the streets marked a respite for Egyptians after years of hardship, from IMF-backed austerity reforms that have pushed inflation to record highs to a tough law on protests that has made public gatherings exceedingly rare after two presidents were toppled since a 2011 uprising.

“You can look around and see how people are happy. This is something you never witness in Egypt,” 23-year-old Gamal Mohamed said in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the iconic center of the nation’s once-active protest movement, which has since been quashed by tough security measures.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi congratulated the people after the match as tireless fans draped in flags turned the streets into an impromptu parade of red, white and black.

Just across the border in neighboring Gaza, where Egypt has led a political reconciliation process, thousands of Palestinians poured into an open-air park to cheer on the second Arab nation to qualify for the finals after Saudi Arabia.

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