By O. J. Ferrari
So it was Sunday, July 23, the Day after Nigeria’s first game at the 2019 Cup of Nations that the Eagles had won and I was excited as it was the day for my Journey to Alexandria, Egypt- venue for the Super Eagles group games at the tournament.
I had woken up that morning feeling so impatient as it was the second time I was gonna be out of the country after my experience with Enyimba International in October 2018 when we visited Casablanca, Morocco for the semifinal of the CAF Confederation Cup.
So the flight time was 3 pm from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. I had bought a few things from the local market to equip me for the duration of my stay in Egypt.
We eventually took off at about 3:08 pm and landed at the Cairo International Airport at 9:15 pm local time which was 8:15 pm Nigerian time.
A five-hour journey seemed eternal and I had this Chinese guy for company all flight long.
He coughed and sneezed all through and didn’t understand “shikom” in English, so we settled for sign language all through the journey- he tried to explain how long his journey was gonna take as he was going to China through Egypt, only then did I know that China was that far.
I am in Egypt
On landing at the Cairo International Airport, we went through the immigration processes and eventually found our way to a waiting room where we were to connect a flight to Alexandria, that took us over 2 hrs as the flight was scheduled for 11:50 pm local time. Gbam! We landed at the Borg El Arab International Airport, Alexandria at about 12:30 am after a late take off.
I quickly changed some of the dollars I had to the local currency here
I then got myself a SIM card because I needed to reach out to my family who I knew were hoping to hear from me. I made a few internet calls ASAP and everyone back home was calm(you know how e dey be na, when person travel)
So the next step was getting a taxi to my hotel- Caesar Hostel in the heart of the city, I had booked online and hoped it was cool enough.
Communication with the driver proved a massive difficulty as dude didn’t even know where I was mentioning.
Oh! Thank God for Google Map, I eventually put it on and straight we headed for the hotel. I was glad I could finally rest and get some sleep.
The Next Day’s Episode
The night was cool, woke up the next morning feeling energised and hoping to finally get to see the Super Eagles train so I could file in a first-hand report to my station- Magic 102.9 FM in Aba.
So I set out that morning to the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime studies which had been the training base for the Eagles since they arrived in Alexandria.
Oh my God! It was the wrong base. I’m not gonna bore you with the gist as I got to find out that there were two centres- the bigger one was where the Eagles were training.
I eventually got there and was told the boys had finished training and had returned to their hotel which was a twenty-minute drive from there. I ordered for a cab through Uber and within 20 minutes or slightly less, we were at the Helnan Palestine hotel- a five-star hotel overseeing a large body of water. Hmmmm….see levels, these boys dey enjoy oooo was what I said to myself.
Is this really food in Egypt?
At this time, I realized I was getting hungry and needed to sort my stomach out, I asked a few people where I could get local delicacy but no one knew. I was referred to a restaurant downtown, was promised I would get nice food, I eventually saw what looked like rice but hell no! Dat didn’t even taste like rice, the spice was too much- the smell of garlic everywhere, it was at this point I knew I was in for it- I hate that garlic smell. I got bread from a local store, I was excited, got back home, and eventually had it and slept off.
Language, food and transportation challenges
It was Day 2 and I already knew the challenges before me; language, food and transportation.
From my hotel to the Eagles training base and hotel would cost me roughly 150 Egyptian pounds.
That would translate to about three thousand naira or more. So if I was to cover the Eagles training and activities in their hotel for a week, I was gonna spend about 22k excluding feeding oooooo.
So I decided to do three times a week to save cost.
Oh, Kelechi Nkoro a.k.a. K1Says, I had never met him, never had we chatted but I had seen his post on his blog on his arrival in Egypt and how he was settling in.
I got his contact from one of the WhatsApp groups and quickly chatted him up, introduced myself and he instantly felt my plight.
Based on his experience on the job, and his previous travels, he knew better to come to a new country well-equipped with enough foodstuff.
For the sake of this write-up, I would just refer to him as Oga K, he told me there was a press conference the next day at the stadium, and promised to bring the food he had prepared at his apartment for me.
For the first time in days, I felt like a human being. Oga K, alongside his friends/staff, Johnson Chimaroke and Azubuike Ume and Victor Modo had made White rice with stew and meat(I tear dat food like say tomorrow no dey). I felt really gooooooood. I had been saved.
I also met an Abia based journalist, David Oku (Davidtalks) and it started feeling like I was home. We were both “lost” in a new country so getting to see an Abia based journalist was refreshing. He was in the country for the first time. So it was a case of “two blind mice sitting on the wall”
I had been warned a day earlier that “promptness” was important as stadia were usually closed hours to games because of security challenges, so I woke up that morning, took my bath, brushed my teeth and left the hotel to the stadium at 10 am, six hours before Nigeria were due to file out against the Sylli Nationale of Guinea.
In my opinion, it was gonna be their toughest test in Group B. The Burundians had put up a good fight but I thought the Guineans were a lot more of a complete team with Liverpool ace, Naby Keira within their ranks. They also had a manager in Paul Put, who has an impeccable record managing teams within the continent and abroad.
So I got to the stadium, went past security checks and got into the CAF media centre where there were a few journalists- including Chisom Mbonu Ezeoke of Supersport already seated, chatting, browsing and eating, so I joined in- grabbed a seat and a computer system, and then went straight to the table were they had kept biscuits and tea (Man suppose wack).
Within minutes Oga K, stepped in with his guys, they sat and we started talking and chatting until it was time to go to the media Stand for the match proper.
The game looked like it was heading for a draw until that header from Kenneth Omeruo calmed the nerves of Nigerians who were becoming rather animated in the stands.
After the post-match activities, I had gone to the team hotel for some exclusive interviews, where interestingly I met the rave of the moment, Kenneth Omeruo. We sat and talked for over an hour on the Nations Cup, his early days as a player and what the future holds for him.
Dude was such a delight to speak with- soft-spoken, good grammar and so modest with his answers.
I eventually left the team hotel after a few pleasantries with some other team officials.
Got back to my hotel at 11:20 pm, the journey was interesting as I met this crazy driver, Hamdy. He spoke a bit of English and said so many sweet things about Nigeria.
Momentarily, I felt good about my dear country.
I had woken up to a text from the Media Officer of the Super Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye informing me of the team’s open training session scheduled for 10:30 am, so I quickly rushed to the toilet, shit small, took my bath and brushed my teeth. Picked up a T-Shirt and a pair of jeans trousers and my sneakers and off I went to the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime studies where myself and a lot of local and international journalists gathered to watch the Eagles train.
It lasted for about 1 hour, 20 minutes under the watchful eyes of the gaffer, Gernot Rohr. The players looked in good shape and returned to their hotel afterwards. I didn’t see the need to go to the hotel, so I returned to mine where I had the remnants of my previous day bread with juice for lunch.
Later that night, I joined some Algerians who came in for the Nations Cup at a mall to watch their team beat Senegal and Kenya’s victory over Emmanuel Amuneke’s Tanzania.
I had biscuits for dinner and slept off.