Mon, Jun 11, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Egyptians must pay up if they want to watch World Cup

AFP, CAIRO

Like it or not, Egypt is having to resort to pricey beIN sports TV network subscriptions to watch the Pharaohs play in the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.

In a nation of 97 million people, where the average wage does not exceed US$236, only better-off soccer enthusiasts can afford private subscriptions to the sports broadcaster at home.

Subscribers have to buy a beIN decoder for 1,630 Egyptian pounds (US$91.67) and pay an annual subscription of 2,280 pounds.

Coffee shop owners are hoping to recoup their investment by pulling in the crowds.

In cafes where shisha smoke will mix with the chatter and enthusiasm of fans, a large screen linked to beIN channels are to prove a huge draw.

For 40-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, the owner of a cafe in downtown Cairo, a beIN subscription is “a must.”

One of his regulars, 19-year-old Magdi Arafa, has grown his hair long to look like Liverpool’s Egyptian star player Mohamed Salah.

Arafa said he would just have to go to the cafe to watch the World Cup, which starts on Thursday.

“What can I do? I want to watch the matches, I want to watch my country’s national team,” he said.

Egypt play their opening game against Uruguay on Friday, followed by matches against host country Russia on June 19 and Saudi Arabia on June 25.

Apart from the decoder, the World Cup matches would only be available through a special subscription of 2,052 pounds.

While existing subscribers would get a discount, the additional cost has angered them.

“This is almost equal to the salary of so many people in Egypt,” said Mahmoud Ibrahim, a 30-year-old trader.

BeIN did not respond to questions on the subscription costs or the number of subscribers it has in Egypt.

At a beIN store in Cairo, owner Mahmud Mostafa acknowledged the complaints, but said the price was little changed from that for the 2014 World Cup.

“The difference is the value of the pound versus the dollar, which has led to higher prices,” he said.

Egyptian authorities have tried, but failed to secure broadcast rights for the Pharaohs’ matches on state television.

An Egyptian court has ordered beIN to pay two fines of 18 million euros (US$21.2 million) each for “violating the law” on competition, but the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports said it would make screens available to broadcast the games in more than 5,000 affiliated youth centers and clubs.

The ministry has reached an agreement with the firm representing beIN in Egypt to offer them discounts, an official said said.

Qatar’s beIN Media Group has also been under the spotlight in other Arab nations, which, like Egypt, broke ties with Doha in June last year.

The broadcaster on Tuesday said it has not yet reached agreement with Saudi Arabia, also a qualifier for the finals, although the United Arab Emirates has struck a deal to restore beIN broadcasts.

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