Egypt's Ahly to play before maximum of 5,000 fans in home Champions League game

Mahmoud Elassal , Friday 23 Feb 2018

File photo: File photo: Ahly fans during the CAF Champions League - Semi-Final - vs Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia - Borg El Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt - October 22, 2017 (Reuters)

Only 5,000 supporters will be allowed to attend the opening game of Egypt's leading club Ahly in the African Champions League in Cairo, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said on Thursday.

Although Ahly were allowed to play before 25,000 fans at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium, which has hosted the majority of their home Champions League matches over the past few years, the club opted to switch to their traditional venue in Cairo this year. 

With Cairo's 74,100-seat stadium located in a residential area in the Egyptian capital, security officials said they could not afford letting more than 5,000 attend Ahly's opening Champions League game against Gabon's CF Mounana next month, according to the EFA.

Ahly's arch-rivals Zamalek, which will feature in the less glamorous African Confederation Cup, will play before an unlimited number of fans after opting to stage their home matches in Suez rather than Cairo.    

"The security authorities will allow 5,000 Ahly fans to attend the team's coming game in the CAF Champions League against Gabonese side CF Mounana at Cairo stadium, while Zamalek will play before any number of fans at Suez stadium," EFA executive director Tharwat Swilam told a local television channel.

"Ahly were given the green light to allow 25,000 fans at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab stadium, but the number has been reduced to 5000 after the team's management asked to play the game at Cairo stadium.

"The security authorities reduced Ahly fans number attending the game because of Cairo stadium is located in midtown and it could suspend the traffic specially the game will be played on Tuesday," the EFA executive director added.

"Zamalek will play their game at Suez stadium with any number of fans as the stadium is located at a coastal area.

"The number of fans to attend may be increased in the Egypt Cup games," Swilam said.

Cairo giants Ahly will start the African Champions League mission on 13 March when they host CF Mounana of Gabon in the first leg of the second round at Cairo stadium.

Zamalek take on Welayta Dicha of Ethiopia in the 32nd round of the CAF Confederation Cup.

Football fans have been banned from domestic league games in Egypt since February 2012, when over 70 Ahly supporters died in clashes between fans at Port Said stadium.

The crowd ban in Egypt was briefly lifted in January 2015 but immediately reimposed after 20 Zamalek fans died in a stampede when police used tear gas to disperse crowds lined up to attend a regular league game against Enppi.

In the past five years, authorities have permitted a limited number of fans to attend African games and national team matches, as per FIFA rules.

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