Port Said club Masry said on Tuesday they would participate in this season’s Egyptian Premier League, throwing into doubt the possibility of holding the competition that was cancelled last season due to security concerns.
Masry initially said they would skip the league, which is scheduled to kick off next month, “out of respect for the martyrs’ families” after dozens were killed and hundreds injured in February’s infamous Port Said disaster.
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) banned Masry for two seasons but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned that punishment, thus allowing the club to compete in Egypt’s premier domestic competition.
“We initially accepted the EFA’s recommendation (that the club do not participate in the league) but asked for guarantees that we would be reinstated in the Premier League in the 2013-2014 season,” the club said in a statement.
“However, we haven’t received any replies so we have decided to take part in the league.”
Masry said recently they were worried the EFA may demote them to a lower division once they skip this season’s league competition. Their possible participation is likely to reignite security worries, given the tense relationship between Masry and Ahly’s die-hard supporters.
Ahly’s group of ardent supporters (Ultras Ahlawy) has on several occasions criticized their own club’s board for “being too lenient in pressuring authorities into punishing the culprits” of Egypt’s worst-ever football tragedy.
A number of Masry fans and security officials are currently facing trial on charges of premeditated murder and negligence respectively.
The interior ministry has announced it would gradually allow fans to return to the stands, marking the first step to remove a crowd ban enforced by Egyptian authorities since the Port Said disaster.
Zamalek will enjoy the support of their fans when they host Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea in an African Champions League Group B game on Saturday. The White Knights had already lost hopes of reaching the semis after suffering four consecutive defeats.
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