Monday, November 16, 2009

Breaking the Rules with Football

This isn’t a story about football, not really.

Egypt vs. Algeria. The intensity of the game was only matched by the intensity of the fans. Apparently, there is some type of rivalry harkening back to a match from 1989. A multitude of 17-19 year old students were seen wearing red T-shirts that proclaimed, “I was there in 1989”, (Yeah, 2009-1989=20, I know).

Football here is not just a game, so much so that I received an email from the warden of the U.S. Embassy that basically said don’t leave your house or go anywhere near Nasr City or the stadium because you might die and we can’t help you. At least that’s what I took from it.

Everyone in Cairo would either be at the match or watching it on television, even those people who were working. And this is when my bolder alter ego (I’ve named her Raquel) decided to buck the system, and the actual story begins.

The dormitories on the AUC campus are segregated with the men on one side of the compound and women on the other. Each entrance has a sign-in area that is maned by an AUC staff member who makes sure everyone entering is allowed to be there. No men are allowed past the women’s desk and vice versa. Not following these rules will result in shameful points being added to your residence record and the end of life as you know it! (7 points and your out!)

There is someone at the desks 24/7, but on the night of the football game, all bets were off.

The entrance to the boys side was closed and required my friend to swipe his ID card to enter the area. I watched as he opened the door and was greeted by nothingness. The ever-vigilant staff were glued to the flat screen TV only meters away.

We were a group of about 5 and I expected him to hear us and look over. When he continued to be enraptured by Abou Trika’s fancy footwork, a little voice in my head told me to run for it. Maybe it was the almost 26 year old in me that balked at being treated like a hormonal teenager who’s not able to control herself around the male population. Or maybe I was just bored, and as a grad student, thought I was “too cool for school”. Whatever it was, I ran through the now open doors and through a second set until I stood amongst the boys’ dormitories (Insert *gasp* here).

For a moment I imagined myself reaching the summit of Mount Everest or some other place that few women have trod. I was a rebel for about 8.5 seconds until my friend freaked out, started yelling about 7 points, being kicked out of Egypt, and proceeded to push me back outside the bounds. It wasn’t until I was back in the common area, cackling like a mad woman, that the staff member looked my way. Egypt then scored a goal and I was once again ignored.

If I was able to get away with the impossible feat of crossing into the forbidden area, I can only imagine the hijinks that happened around Cairo with the majority of the police force at the stadium. There is another match next week (Egypt vs. Algeria in Sudan), maybe I’ll see if I can get away with playing cards while wearing shorts and a tank top.

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