Egyptian league resumes amid security concerns

Hatem Maher, Monday 12 Dec 2011

Ahly’s anticipated game against Ismaily postponed, Zamalek do not want to play as security concerns linger over the Egyptian Premier League’s resumption

Zamalek's fans (Photo: Bassam El-Zoghbi)

Zamalek said they wanted their game postponed like that of Cairo rivals Ahly as security concerns hang over the Egyptian Premier League’s resumption following a one-month stoppage.

The long break of the premier domestic competition was designed to give Egypt’s senior and Olympic teams sufficient time to prepare for their respective commitments.

Egypt marked the debut of new American coach Bob Bradley with a 2-0 defeat by five-time world champions Brazil in a high-profile friendly while the U-23 side qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1992 after finishing third at the African Championship in Morocco.

The league would have stopped anyway, given the political turmoil which engulfed Egypt after heavy clashes between police and protesters in Tahrir square and elsewhere in the country left more than 40 dead and thousands injured.

The hardcore supporters of Ahly and Zamalek, Ultras Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights respectively, were in the frontlines during the clashes with police forces in Mohamed Mahmoud, one of the streets leading to the interior ministry headquarters in Tahrir.

Ultras Ahlawy took the battle to another level when they insisted they would not abide by an Egyptian Football Association (EFA) decision to ban Ahly’s supporters from attending an anticipated match against bitter foes Ismaily.

The EFA consequently postponed the match, which was due to be played on Tuesday, at the request of the interior ministry which said it would be busy securing the second phase of the ongoing parliamentary elections.

It also said later on Sunday that Ahly’s fans would be permitted to attend the match, whose new date is not determined yet, as the under-fire governing body apparently bowed to pressure from the unyielding supporters.

Zamalek request

Zamalek have also requested that their match against Arab Contractors, which is scheduled for Tuesday, be postponed.

“The club wants to ensure the safety of the players and technical staff because the parliamentary elections will coincide with the match against Arab Contractors,” Zamalek said in a statement on their official website.

“Like what happened with other teams, Zamalek want the match postponed,” the club added, referring to Ahly, who are on top of the league table with 14 points from six games, four ahead of their arch-rivals who have a game in hand.

Zamalek are still blighted by a persistent financial problem that escalated during the league stoppage despite the looming return of wealthy businessman Mamdouh Abbas as the club’s chairman.

In-form striker Amr Zaki has filed a complaint with the EFA to annul his contract while right wing-back Hazem Emam moved to Saudi Arabia’s Faisaly without Zamalek’s consent on the grounds that they have not been paid for several months.

Harras El-Hodoud, who lie second in the table with 13 points, take on struggling Alexandria neighbours Smouha while third-placed Ittihad El-Shorta, who continued from where they left off last season, face promoted Bani Suef Telephones on Tuesday.

The league will come back to life on Monday when Talae El-Geish face Gouna and Wadi Degla play Dakhleya.

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