Ghana has asked FIFA to switch the second leg of their 2014 World Cup playoff against Egypt to "a safer place."
“We are seriously concerned about the security and safety of our delegation and spectators if the match is played in Egypt. Events in the country pointedly indicate that our delegation could be exposed to danger as the violence and insecurity in the country continues relentlessly,” reads the Ghana Football Association's (GFA) letter to FIFA published on their official website on Tuesday.
Egypt, who cancelled two successive premier league seasons due to crowd violence, has been in turmoil since the army ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July following mass protests against his rule.
“The GFA is gravely concerned that for the past two years Egyptian authorities have only allowed football matches to be played without spectators, yet Ghana has reportedly been asked to play Egypt in Cairo before fans. It is noteworthy that Egypt played all their home qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Guinea in Egypt without spectators.
“Local clubs Ahly and Zamalek played their recent CAF Champions League matches behind closed doors as the security authorities refused the supporters access to the games because of the current turmoil in Egypt," the GFA added.
Spectators have been banned from football stadiums since February 2012 when more than 70 fans died in Port Said during clashes between rival supporters.
Two weeks ago a fan of Cairo club Zamalek was killed during clashes with security forces outside the club’s headquarters.
The security situation became worse when more than 50 Morsi supporters died and hundreds were injured in clashes with security forces around Tahrir Square on Sunday.
“Since then the violence in Egypt has escalated, leaving the GFA and some of the Black Stars players to express their grave concern over their safety for the match scheduled for Cairo in November, 2013," the GFA added.
Egypt insist match will be played in Cairo
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) insists there is no reason for the Ghanaian's "trouble-making."
"The second leg match will be held in Cairo on 19 November and this is final. The security authorities will provide heavy security for the game," EFA spokesman Azmy Megahed told Ahram Online on Tuesday.
"We are in communication with the governing body of football to explain the matter and Hani Abou-Rida [FIFA executive committee member] is currently making great efforts to solve the problem," Megahed added.
"These claims are unfounded and we reject all demands to play the game outside Egypt. We are capable of securing any game, not just the Ghana one. Ahly and Zamalek have been playing their games in the African Champions League in Egypt without any problems," EFA president Gamal Allam said on Monday.
Success in organising the match at Cairo stadium means a lot to the authorities, and qualification for the first World Cup since 1990 could be marketed politically too. Ghana "sympathise" but they too have their own ambitions.
“Much as we sympathise with our brothers at the Egyptian Football Association, we are highly concerned about the security and safety of our players, officials and supporters and would like FIFA to take the necessary steps to protect lives and from both Ghana and Egypt during the second-leg game.
“Consequently, we hereby kindly request that in consonance with FIFA’s tradition in similar circumstances, the match be moved to a neutral venue to forestall the potential but avoidable threat to life and property,” the GFA concluded.
The Pharaohs will fly to Kumasi this weekend to meet the Black Stars in the first leg on 15 October.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)