Revealed: Celebrity lineup who scored an Egypt own goal

In a publicity stunt before the match, state-owned telecoms company WE flew the celebrities to the team’s hotel in Saint Petersburg.
Updated 23 June 2018
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Revealed: Celebrity lineup who scored an Egypt own goal

  • The debacle has infuriated ordinary fans who were hoping the World Cup would provide them with some much-needed joy amid the harsh austerity program
  • Before the World Cup, Egypt were tipped to qualify from a group that also includes Uruguay and Saudi Arabia

CAIRO: When a gaggle of Egyptian celebrities, including an outspoken belly dancer, visited the national football team’s hotel ahead of a crunch World Cup match this week, fans back home feared the worst.

Similar visits before big games in the past had led to disappointing results on the pitch, and so it proved yet again. This time Egypt were humbled 3-1 by the host nation Russia — a defeat that sent them crashing out of the tournament.

Before the World Cup, Egypt were tipped to qualify from a group that also includes Uruguay and Saudi Arabia. But after losing 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening fixture, they needed to get something out of their second game on Tuesday.

In a publicity stunt before the match, state-owned telecoms company WE flew the celebrities to the team’s hotel in Saint Petersburg. Among those who made the trip were actors Sherif Mounir and Ahmed Rizk, actress Bosy Shalaby and belly dancer Fifi Abdou, who made headlines recently saying she supported fuel hikes as part of the government’s austerity measures.

The debacle has infuriated ordinary fans who were hoping the World Cup would provide them with some much-needed joy amid the harsh austerity program that has left many people in Cairo struggling to make ends meet.

With their dreams of football glory in tatters, supporters have blamed the publicity-hungry celebrities as well as the underperforming players.

“The scene at the hotel was horrible. It’s true that none of the Egypt players came down to meet them, but their presence in such large numbers was a distraction,” said Ramy Gamal, 30, who was at the hotel at the time.

“All they care about is taking pictures and posting them on social media; they are not even interested in football. We want real fans to get behind the team, not actors and singers.”

Mahmoud El-Hussein, a 47-year-old fan, said: “What WE did was a provocation to all Egyptians. At a time of economic struggle, we see a state-owned company organize a trip for rich people who can afford a hundred trips like that.”


Ozil defends controversial picture with Erdogan

Updated 23 min 3 sec ago
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Ozil defends controversial picture with Erdogan

  • Ozil said he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins
  • He insisted he did not intend to make a political statement

BERLIN: Footballer Mesut Ozil said Sunday he had no regrets about his controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany’s national squad ahead of the World Cup.
Breaking his silence over the snapshot that caused outrage during the tournament, the Arsenal midfielder said in a statement on Twitter that he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement.
“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”
Ozil said he had first met Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match together.
“Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe,” he said.
“I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”
Ozil said despite the timing of the picture with teammate Ilkay Gundogan and Erdogan — shortly before the president won re-election in a poll endowing him with sweeping new powers — “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Ozil said.
“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”
Ozil, 29, came in for stinging criticism in Germany for their shock first-round defeat at the World Cup.
Team boss Oliver Bierhoff suggested after the debacle that Germany should have considered dropping Ozil after his failure to explain himself over the Erdogan picture.
Bierhoff later backtracked, saying that he “was wrong” to put Ozil under undue pressure, but the picture continued to draw scorn from fans on social media.
Germany is home to more than three million people of Turkish origin.