It s dullsville where everything is peachy, when everything is squeaky clean, where there s nothing wrong with anybody or anything. To be believable and acceptable, every story must have a dark side. There has to be a catch somewhere. Where there’s sugar there s got to be salt. When there s good sans the bad, things start feeling, looking, and smelling, like an idyllic resort brochure. Blah and ugh. Give me Desperate Housewives over the Boy Scouts any day. Forget Snow White; I ll go for American Beauty.
But what to do? Some things are white and have no black. There was certainly nothing dysfunctional about a torch relay from Alexandria to Cairo to mark the Summer Games for the intellectually disabled playing in Shanghai from Oct. 2-11 this year. The Flame of Hope for these Games, which always emanates from Greece, usually tours Europe or goes directly to Special Olympics headquarters in Washington DC, but this time, for the first time, it passed through Egypt, the only country in Africa selected for the honor.
The flame, which honorary chairwoman of Special Olympics Egypt Suzanne Mubarak called a symbol of civilization, determination and peace, will travel more than 35,000 km, touching down on five continents over the next three months. More than 10,000 athletes and coaches and 20,000 family members from over 160 countries and regions are expected to show up. Great figures for great Games.
Also from the Mediterranean city, some other benign headline news. The English Premiership, home to the world s best soccer league, brought its show to Alex as part of a series of one-week coaching lessons.
The Premiership representatives are not Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger. Doing the coaching are instead former players – Newcastle United Warren Barton, Wimbledon midfielder Robbie Earle, and goalkeeper Tony Roberts – running sessions for 40 prospects, including women, hand-picked from throughout the country and aged 18 to 35, in Semouha Club. Students received a daily six-hour morning and evening coaching session, and the British Council provided intensive language courses for those whose English does not get past goal.
During the next three years, 240 students in Egypt are expected to take these coaching courses. Perhaps a Steve McLaren will be created. For England s sake, hopefully not.
One more positive in which only good things can be said – the Ahly-Zamalek cup final derby which is being hailed by members of the media and public as the best Egyptian football game ever played. It s a stretch to qualify it as such. The 1978 4-2 Ahly win against Zamalek, also a cup final, and the 4-4 Ahly-Ismaili see-saw draw in 2002 that eventually gave Ismaili the league crown, are at least worthy contenders for the best-ever title. But Monday night s extravaganza was an encounter for the ages. Three times Zamalek had the lead and three times it could not put Ahly away before a brace by substitute Osama Hosni in overtime ultimately gave defending champions Ahly the scintillating 4-3 victory that was worth LE 40,000 for every Ahly footballer as a token of the club s appreciation. For his efforts, Ahly s Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, who already gets 55,000 euros a month, will receive a two-month bonus.
With their wallets fatter and a 35th cup crown added to the club s collection of 101 major football trophies in this, Ahly s 100th anniversary, the players left Cairo Stadium straight for Cairo Airport, heading for the Ivory Coast to play against Asec in the second game of the group stage of the African Champions League.
Ahly beat Sudan s Hilal 2-0 in Cairo in the first game while Asec held Tunisia s Esperance to a scoreless draw in Tunisia.
Ahly is trying to win its third African Champions League title in a row and sixth overall, both of which would be continental records.
So from Abidjan we await good news which, as we agreed, might be dull, but is nevertheless good.