Today’s papers: Football euphoria continues, Zahi Hawass in trouble

Celebrations continued for a second day in the mainstream papers, with front pages all around dedicated to the national football team’s triumphant return from the African Nations Cup in Angola. After beating Ghana 1-0 in the final match of the tournament, the team arrives on a wave of record-breaking success, with their third consecutive title win, and seventh overall.

Photos of the homecoming ceremony at Cairo airport dominated the front pages and were accompanied by jubilant headlines like Al-Gomhurriya’s “Mubarak to team: You have made Egypt happy with your historic and unprecedented achievement” and Al-Akhbar’s “Egypt honors the heroes.” A headline in Al-Ahram featured a quote from the team’s coach, Hassan Shehata, in which he attributed the groundbreaking success to President Mubarak’s constant support and encouragement.

The details of the homecoming celebration differed slightly throughout the three government-run papers. According to Al-Akhbar, the president shook hands with every team member and congratulated them on their “fighting spirit” and “masculine performance.” Al-Ahram reported that the president signed Mohamed Zidan’s shirt. Al-Gomhurriya reprinted a complete transcript of the president’s remarks in which he thanked the team for, among other things, serving as a “bridge of brotherhood and friendship between the nation and its people.”

Al-Akhbar quoted team captain Ahmed Hassan saying that the team had promised the president this victory to make up for the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup, while Al-Ahram briefly mentioned the congratulatory calls that the president has been receiving from world leaders.

The national team’s homecoming was also the main story in the independent papers, despite Al-Dostour’s attempts to ruin the party by giving prominent placing–but less space–to the controversy concerning antiquities trading. With a red headline over the slightly scandalous subtitle “Zakariya Azmy accuses Zahi Hawass of leaking false information on the antiquities law, and Omar Haridi screams at him: ‘You are an indecent man,’" the chaotic story reported on a heated debate in parliament that ended with Haridi making a grab for Hawass. The scuffle is illustrated with an amusing photograph. The parliamentarian and the antiquities chief were arguing over Ahmed Ezz’s proposal for a law to allow and regulate the legal trade of antiquities.

Al-Dostour devoted the rest of the page to the national team’s achievement, in the shape of an editorial by Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Eissa in which Eissa reasons that while government may exploit the team’s success for its own purposes, this has been the case for years and even Gamal Mubarak’s recent cameos have done little to increase his popularity—or more importantly, that of the ruling party–with the Egyptian people.

Al-Shorouq covered the national team’s return from a different angle, taking quotes from the intermingling fans and security forces lining Salah Salem Street as they waited for the bus transporting the triumphant team from the airport. Cause for celebration was also found, although on a slightly smaller scale, in the impeachment and resignation of Minister of Housing Ibrahim Soliman. Al-Shorouq reported that after handing in his resignation as minister, Soliman was "surprised" to learn that he was removed by the government from his position as CEO of the Petrol Services Company, a role he held only briefly.

State-owned papers also covered the news of the embattled former minister, with Al-Ahram reporting that the Petrol Services Company is demanding Soliman return money he received from them–the cumulative amount of his LE50,000 monthly salary.

Al-Wafd mentioned Ibrahim Soliman in a front-page story that ran between two very different football stories. While the lead story focused on the national team’s triumph, another report detailed the darker side of the football enthusiasm. Under the headline “Due to a police officer’s objection to victory celebrations, fans burn police cars and bread-trucks and set fire to documents in Belbeis’s Town Hall,” the story discusses a police officer who set off a riot when he arrested several young fans for unruly behavior. The fans were allegedly driving around with their car radio excessively loud. When they refused to cooperate with the officer, they were arrested, setting off a wave of destruction that enveloped Belbeis late Sunday night. Angry mobs stormed and set flames to town hall’s civil services office, as well three brand-new vehicles designed to distribute bread in the village, among other things.

Al-Wafd also ran a story berating the New York Times for its report on the Naga Hammadi shooting, which, according to Al-Wafd’s headline, was “3 weeks ago!” The paper goes on to point out that the majority of the world’s media is busy covering Egypt’s recent soccer triumph, further implying that the New York Times is living in the past.

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