The Alexandria-based club Ittihad has formally requested that an overseas official be in charge of Friday’s encounter at home with Ahly, the head of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) referees' committee Mohamed Hossam said Saturday.
“Although time is limited, we will do our best to appoint foreign referees for the Ittihad-Ahli game. We are waiting for the approval of EFA Chairman Samir Zaher,” Hossam told Reuters.
Several Egyptian clubs, anticipating alleged bias towards Ahly, said they did not believe domestic referees would be able to preside over such highly-charged affairs.
Egyptian referees are consistently accused by small teams of favouring Cairo heavyweights Ahly and Zamalek.
Promoted Smouha had their 1-1 draw against Ahly refereed by Hungarian Istvan Vad while Swiss Carlo Bertolini took charge of Ahly’s 3-1 defeat by Ismaily last month.
The Cairo derby between Ahly and Zamalek is traditionally allocated to foreign referees due to the heated rivalry between the two most successful teams in Egypt and Africa.
However, under pressure from other Premier League outfits, EFA gave other the green light to follow suit, so long as they cover the costs of bringing in foreign officials.
Ittihad are languishing at the bottom of the 16-team table after collecting just nine points from their first 12 games.
They sacked Brazilian boss Carlos Cabral and appointed Mohamed Amer as his successor, but Ittihad still slumped to two consecutive losses against Ismaily and Zamalek under the guidance of the new coach.
With a tough game against defending champions Ahly looming, the club had no option but to opt for a foreign referee, board member Sherif El-Helw said.
“We have faith in Egyptian referees, but we believe that such crucial games need foreign ones,” he told Reuters.
Several other games were refereed by foreign officials, including Zamalek’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over Masry last month.