First Published: 2016-06-17

Euro 2016 football fever overshadows soap operas in Arab world
Muslims across Arab world fills cafes, switch on their TVs to watch Euro 2016 football during Ramadan, dealing blow to their favourites programmes.
Middle East Online

Packed cafes

CAIRO - From Dubai to Tunis, Euro 2016 football fever is sweeping the Arab world, filling cafes and restaurants and overshadowing the nightly television soap operas that normally dominate Ramadan viewing.

Every year, during the Muslim fasting month, television audiences soar as families gather in front of their sets after breaking the daytime fast.

Usually the ratings are dominated by the dozens of rival soaps that are aired by state and private channels. But this year, Ramadan coincides with the Euros which are another massive draw.

"The Euro championship is a high season for us," said Mohammed Saeed, who runs a cafe in an upmarket area of Cairo. "We wait for it every four years to guarantee a full house."

Cafes in the Egyptian capital have draped the flags of competing countries over their entrances to attract fans.

Some games are played during the day, when devout Muslims are fasting, while others clash with the iftar meal which breaks the daily fast at sunset.

In Tunisia, where most cafes are closed during daylight hours in Ramadan, the venue moves to people's homes.

Evening games begin a few minutes after Muslims break their fast, a time most Tunisians spend with their families watching television.

"No doubt there will be disputes in homes between those wanting to watch the soaps and others who want to watch the Euro matches," said the head of a major television channel in Tunisia.

Television viewing in the region peaks during Ramadan with ratings remaining high well into the night and advertisers devote large chunks of their budget to the small screen's high season.

With most games showing on foreign satellite channels, the main Tunisian channels have scheduled daily analysis programmes on the matches.

- Passionate about football -

Ramadan hasn't stopped people following the contest on big screens in the Gulf.

In Kuwait, whose national team was banned by FIFA in October from taking part in World Cup qualifying matches because of alleged government interference in sports, fans take consolation in the Euros.

"Kuwaitis are passionate about football. It's their favourite sport. But with the local championship being dull, football fans are passionate about the Euros," said Salman Awad, former coach of the local Al-Salmiya team.

Germany, the reigning world champions, are the most supported team in Kuwait and in many other Arab countries, exceeding defending European champions Spain.

"Germany will win against Spain" in the final, was the prediction of Abbas Sistani as he sat in a restaurant in Kuwait City.

In Dubai, one restaurant has erected a huge tent on the beach with big screens to show the games.

Wafts of aromatic smoke fill the air as diners puff on flavoured tobaccos from hookahs, the water pipes that are a popular social pastime across the region.

In another restaurant, an excited Jamie, sporting a white England shirt, said the cosmopolitan city state was a great venue to follow the tournament.

"I don't think we're going to win it. I don't think we're close to being favourites," he said.

But "when it's a decent game, this place is jam-packed... you can't get that atmosphere at home... It's as good as it gets."

 

Syrian rebels agree to leave new area outside Damascus

Family accuses Israel of killing Palestinian in Malaysia

Rouhani slams officials' 'vow of silence' in face of protests

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Cinema makes return to Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council meets over Syria in Sweden

Natalie Portman says backed out of Israel prize over Netanyahu

Morocco, EU start talks on new fisheries deal

FIFA to return to Morocco to check hotels, stadiums

Turkey in shock after violent Istanbul derby

Iraq pays first war reparations to Kuwait since 2014

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

Western strikes on Syria bring no change whatsoever

Trump criticises OPEC for high oil prices

Syria says rebels south of capital surrender

Market has capacity to absorb higher oil prices: Saudi minister

Putin 'ready' for Trump summit

Saudi Arabia to host first public film screening

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area