No question, hosts of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Egypt commanded the biggest following across the divide in Cairo and the rest of the country.
For obvious reasons, the whole of the country was painted red every time the Pharoahs were in action.
On the match eve, streets in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities of the country would be occupied by traders selling all sorts of merchandise ranging from red jerseys, whistles, bandanas, scarves and the like.
The heart breaking moment that not only broke the hearts of the Egyptian players on the field, but also over 75,000 fans at the Cairo International Stadium and millions in the country was stamped by South Africa’s Christopher Lorch Thembinkosi.
Lorch was the hero with the late match-winner past goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy in the 84th minute in Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 victory at the round of 16.
Egypt followed in the footsteps of another crowd darling country, Uganda.
Uganda Cranes bowed out 1-0 to the Senegal Teranga Lions, also at the round of 16 courtesy of
Hours later, holders Cameroon suffered a heart breaking 3-2 loss to Nigeria in Alexandria.
Odion Ighalo struck a brace and assisted Alex Iwobi’s winner.
Stephane Cedric Bakohen and Clinton Njie were on target for Indomitable Lions.
The three countries Egypt, defending champions Cameroon and Uganda had many fans for different reasons.
Uganda and Cameroon players and other delegation officials have since returned home and now follow the competition via Television or online.
In fact, since the elimination of the trio, life has not been the same.
The loss had adverse effects thereafter. The Uganda Cranes head coach Sebastien Desabre mutually terminated his employment contract with Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA).
The rest of his technical team were sacked by the FA when they returned home.
Egyptian players are resting in their home confines and worse of all; the head coach Javier Onaindia Aguirre and his technical team were sacked by the FA.
The same FA led by the boss Hany Abou Rida resigned. For starters, Rida is also a member of the FIFA Council and CAF Executive Committee.
The sporting a bit aside, there has been a dark patch inflicted upon the on-going tournament.
The vigour and steam that the tournament had built at the initial stages is no more.
The capacity overfilling crowd that thronged the Cairo International Stadium is not envisaged any more.
The colourful and eye-catching uniform lights that lit the stadia have been missed since then.
Even the famous Mexican that made rounds around the stadium every time Egypt played is no longer as frequent and beautiful.
Perhaps, there is every justification that the tournament will climax with a success since the remaining countries in the competition have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are worthy the talk.
Sportingly, the level of competition at the 2019 AFCON tourney has been top notch.
Thus far, it remains a close call to predict who will win the championship.
On Sunday, Senegal plays Algeria at the 30th June Military Stadium and Nigeria will take on Tunisia at the Cairo International Stadium during the semi-final clashes.
Who progresses to the final on Friday, 19th July 2019?
Your guess is as good as mine.