Egypt's Sisi says fans may be able to return to stands for domestic matches

Ahram Online , MENA , Saturday 22 Jun 2019

El-Sisi says the AFCON tournament, which is open to fans who go through new security procedures, offers an opportunity to revisit the audience limits on local matches

The opening ceremony for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Photo: AFP)

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said security measures implemented at the opening game of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) may pave the way for fans to return to the stands in local competitions, after years of matches behind closed doors.

"The tournament, in terms of its new booking and security measures, offer an opportunity to allow fans to attend the coming games of the national football league and cup in the same civilised manner we witnessed in the opening game," El-Sisi said after the game.

A limited number of fans are allowed to attend domestic games at present, after the Egyptian Football Association partially lifted a long-standing crowd ban earlier in the season.

For almost seven years, local football fans have missed out on the live spectacle as games were held behind closed doors due to security concerns.

The issue dates from February 2012, when 72 Ahly supporters were killed and dozens were severely injured in bloody clashes with rival fans from Port Said's Masry following a league game in Port Said.

Later in 2015, authorities did allow a minimal number of spectators to attend a league game, but the game resulted in another bloody disaster: 20 Zamalek fans were killed and dozens injured at the gates of Cairo’s Air Defence Stadium after police tried to bar spectators without tickets from entering the stadium.

El-Sisi, who opened the CAN competition in a ceremony at Cairo stadium on Friday, urged fans to attend not only Egypt’s matches but also the rest of the tournament. 

He also called on the players of the national team to do their best during the games.

In his opening speech announcing the launch of the tournament, the president welcomed the African football fans visiting Egypt to attend the games.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, CAF head Ahmad Ahmad, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi, and a number of African officials attended the tournament's opening ceremony.

The tournament is scheduled to run until 19 July.

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