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Egypt’s football Premier League to go ahead despite violence

Egypt’s military gives the Egyptian Football Association the green light to start the league competition on Saturday as previously scheduled

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 30 Jan 2013
Zamalek and Ahly
Ahmed Hassan of Egypt's Zamalek (C) fights for the ball with Egypt's Al Ahly Abdallah El Said (L) and Oussou Konan (Photo: Reuters)
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Views: 2154

The Egyptian Premier League, which has been suspended since last year’s Port Said disaster, will go ahead on Saturday as planned despite the violence plaguing Egypt.

The interior ministry, which is busy trying to combat riots and protests in several governorates including Cairo, declined to respond to a letter from the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) over whether the new league season will be played.

However, Egypt’s defence ministry assured the EFA the competition will start on time. All the games will take part at military-owned stadiums, which meet the new safety standards set by the public prosecution in the wake of the Port Said tragedy.

“The ministry agreed that the first half of the league season will be played at military stadiums according to dates set previously,” the defence ministry said.

“The matches that were due to be played in Suez will be moved to another venue, given the current circumstances in the Suez Canal cities.”

A verdict sentencing 21 football fans to death for their role in the Port Said disaster, which left over 70 Ahly supporters dead, has sparked a wave of unrest in the coastal city.

The ensuing clashes killed more than 40 as angry protesters, who felt the government made Port Said residents as scapegoats for Egypt’s worst-ever football tragedy, retaliated after going on the rampage.

Cairo and Ismailia and Suez, which lie on the Suez Canal, also witnessed deadly clashes that marked the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

The interior ministry has recently given the EFA the go ahead to kick-start the league competition but the latest wave of violence cast doubts over whether it would be able to secure the matches at a time when it is struggling to contain an outpouring of anger.

Egypt’s cash-strapped football clubs pleaded with authorities to allow them to resume football activity as they seek to alleviate their financial woes.

League matches will be played behind closed doors in the first half of the season. Port Said-based club Masry accepted the EFA’s request to boycott the competition this term to avoid stirring tensions.

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