Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A word on the World Cup

For those who don't know (how is that possible) the United States lost its opening game of World Cup 2006 to the Czech Republic on Monday, 3-0. Thus far, it is the most lopsided loss that this years cup has seen; after the game, the US manager lambasted his players by name, including several of the supposed stars of the team - Kasey Keller, DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan in particular - for a lack of effort, a lack of focus and an over all lack of execution.

The ability to watch the World Cup is taken for granted in the United States. If you have cable, you can flip on ESPN2 and see all the matches live. In America, like electricity, refrigerators and Ipods, cable has gone from a luxury item to a necessary and relatively affordable sign of middle class living. It is thus not an exaggeration to say that checking out the games this June is, for Americans, a piece of cake.

Not so in Egypt. Here in Cairo, and I believe throughout the Middle East, the rights to broadcast the World Cup were bought by ART, or Arabic Radio and Television. In the Middle East, most people get their news and entertainment from satellite television; few people pay for more than the dish. ART is a satellite television provider available by subscription only. In the US, if you want to watch Al Jazeera, Al Arabiyya or any other Arabic language station, ART is the provider you call. The packages range from 30 to 60 bucks a month (if I remember correctly).

But in the Middle East, people don't pay much for satellite television.

Until now.

ART must have paid a fortune for the rights to broadcast the World Cup, and their passing it on to consumers. In order to subscribe to ART, an American friend who has been living here a year told me, it costs 3,600 Egyptian pounds. That's more than 600 dollars, or a small fortune here. Whatever the price is (I'm having trouble finding it on the ART website), it's clearly more than most Egyptians can pay. I watched the first cup match, between Germany and Costa Rica, on a small TV at a local coffee shop. The reception was so terrible we left for a second local spot. By the time we had decided to move from the first place, I had developed a strong headache.

The experience is not unique. Small outdoor coffee shops are the norm in Cairo. People go to meet friends, sip tea, smoke shisha and, now, watch futbol. Walking from locale to locale, you can tell which shop owners know a thing or two about stealing cable and which are pure amateurs. It's only at the nicest places that one can watch the game as it can now be seen - a large screen, a clear picture and with quality sound.

What a shame that so many here can't fully appreciate the world's biggest party.


At 5:30 AM, Blogger Garnet Soccer said...

Too bad...there is probably a much higher percentage of people in Egypt who appreciate The Beautiful Game than here in America...yet, it is harder for them to watch. Ironic, innit?


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