Some of Africa's best soccer stars are in Egypt for the bi-annual African Cup of Nations tournament. But, for many Egyptian soccer fans who want to see their idols in action, ticket prices are too high, and they are unable to afford admission to the games.
Cameroon's Samuel Etoo, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba and Nigeria's Jay Jay Okocha are just some of the top stars at Egypt 2006.
Mention any of them to Egyptian football fans and their eyes light up. And yet when their teams take to the field the venues are never full, the only exception being the Egyptian match against Morocco. Egyptian sports journalist Mohamed Hossam told VOA that fans are being asked to pay too much to watch two matches.
"The ticket price is too high to Egyptian fans, it's too much to pay 20 Pounds [$3.50)," he said. "In Egypt we are used to pay five Pounds to see big matches like Ahly and Zamalek."
This has been evident at the games played so far and in some cases Africa's top national teams are playing in front of crowds as small as a few thousand fans. Viken Djizmedjian spokesman for the Local Organizing Committee of Egypt 2006 agreed that the cheapest tickets are overpriced but defended the decision to price them above what fans would pay to watch a local soccer match.
"It is true that it's overpriced but this is an international competition," he said. "The services which we are providing to the spectators cost us a lot whether renovation of the stadiums, renovation of the dressing rooms, all this cost us a lot."
Djizmedjian and his committee have come up with what they think is a solution to having the stadiums almost empty. The army is trucking soldiers to watch the matches, free of charge. They are conspicuous by their brightly colored track suits and sit apart from members of the general public.
In a bid to increase attendance the committee has also reduced the price of tickets for students at venues other than the Cairo International Stadium, where the Egyptian team known as the Pharaohs is playing its group matches.
Despite the high cost of traveling to Cairo to see the games, there are small traveling bands of team supporters from sub-Saharan Africa. And although their numbers are small, the fans more than make up for that with their colorful body paints, costumes, loud enthusiasm and passion.