FT’s 2019 AFCON Stadium Guide
Imagine if the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations were like high school lectures where you would have to go to the same place every day to attain value. It would be quite boring. The fun comes with watching players from a different stadium now and again, to see the players in a different lens. The challenge that comes with that though might be the difference in cultures in the host communities which fans and players alike would need to adjust to quickly. This is where we come in with a pre-tournament detailed stadium guide that will give you all that you need to sit back and enjoy the games. It has been declared that the AFCON will be played in the Cairo International, Air Defense (30 June), Al Salam, Alexandria, Suez and Ismailia stadiums. The opening and final match will be hosted by the Cairo Stadium.
Cairo International Stadium
The Cairo International Stadium is located in Nasr City of Giza and was built in 1960. Over the years, it has gone over certain renovations to ensure that it is still relevant to today’s soccer needs. It was renovated in 2005 and of course in 2019 to ensure that it will be ready to host Africa’s finest. It will not be the first time it has been home to a major tournament, having hosted the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations finals. Twenty years later in 2006, Cairo also hosted an AFCON final. In 2009, it was home to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In this year’s AFCON, it will host the Group A games, semi-final and the final match. At its full capacity, this stadium can carry up to 75 000 soccer fans.
Locally, it is home to Zamalek and Ah-Ahly FC (which we once provided a detailed account of its journey to continental dominance at club level). For all the great memories that it has amassed over time, Cairo International is nicknamed the Stadium of Horror. While enjoying the game, it might be great to give this stadium respect for the years it has lived. It is much, much older than the people who will be on its turf.
Cairo City is the heart of Egypt that keeps the rest of the country alive even at night. While enjoying yourself in the games, it would be great to immerse yourself in the street food and how Egyptians live.
Air Defence (30 June) Stadium
While all the other stadiums were going through the noises of hammering innovation, this one was untouched because it was already looking sleek and ready for the 2019 AFCON. Only the roads around it were recently refurbished for the purposes of the Nations Cup tournament. The 30 June stadium was built in 2012 as home to the Air Defence Sports Village. In case you were also wondering why a place would be named after a date, here is why: It was simply founded on the 30th of June together with other buildings which were being built by the Air Defence Force as part of the Olympic Village. It can carry up to 30 000 people. It is home to Pyramid FC who play in the Egyptian Premier League. Other than hosting football matches, it also hosts athletics, so you will also have a look at the grounds that train Egypt’s athletes while you are still there.
Al Salam Stadium
It is located in the Northern part of Cairo, and like the Air Defence Stadium, it can carry up to 30 000 people. The 10-year-old stadium was built in 2009 to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup. It has hosted numerous local games between Al-Ahly and Zamalek. Like the aforementioned stadiums, it has more to offer than just the main pitch. It has hotels and training fields circling it. During the AFCON, it will host the Group D matches.
Unlike most of the stadiums, this one is located outside of Cairo and in the Meditteranean City of Alexandria. The city has had its own fair share of hosting of sports matches. It hosted the AFCON tournament in 2006 and it will host the Group B games in the 2019 AFCON. The Alexandria Stadium is home to Egyptian Premier League sides Al Ittihad, Smouha and Olympic Club. Even though it can carry only 20 000 people, it is still called “Home of Beautiful” because it is the oldest stadium, built in 1929. As an ancient city, Alexandria holds some of Egypt’s iconic buildings and monuments which include the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Greco-Roman Museum. Maybe one evening when the games are going well or not, you can take a peep at the city.
Even though it was opened in 1990, it will host its first international games this year. It was recently renovated this year to host the Nations Cup to increase its capacity to 20 500. It is located in the beautiful city of Suez which is characterized by touristic places such as Red Sea Resorts which are 55km from the city. The Group E teams who will have their matches hosted there will have more than the game to play. The city of Suez stems from a rich mining history, but has grown to position itself as the best commercial and industrial centre at the Red Sea that people are quite keen to visit.
Ismaila is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the North Eastern side of Egypt and the players will be caught in the midst of all that beauty. The home to Ismaily SC will be more than able to carry about 18 500 guests. It will welcome all the Group F games and one Group E game. It has also hosted the 2006 African Cup of Nations and the U-20 World Cup in 2009. There were some rumours that this city will not be included among the 2019 AFCON hosts because of the fans’ clash that happened between Ismaily SC and Tunisian’s Club Africain during a CAF Champions’ League a while ago. This says that while fans are enjoying the games there, they should be conscious of their behaviour lest they enforce the stereotypes that may form against the beautiful Ismalia. This is a vibrant city with art so make sure you grab souvenir while still there.
If there is something we cannot doubt, it is the success and joy (or not for some) that will come with the 2019 AFCON Cup. Egypt has also opened the arms of its beautiful cities to host the rest of Africa. This guide has given us a feel of what to expect when we get to the different stadiums. While enjoying the games, let us remember to explore the cities and most importantly respect the culture of the Egyptian people.