Ahly’s Barakat blames Masry fans for Port Said deaths

Mahmoud Elassal, Thursday 1 Mar 2012

Prominent Ahly midfielder says teammates, family convinced him to keep playing football despite earlier decision to retire in wake of Port Said tragedy

Ahly's Mohamed Barakat (Photo: Reuters)

Ahly midfielder Mohamed Barakat announced Thursday that he had reversed his earlier decision to hang up his boots following pressure from teammates who demanded that he continue playing.

"I was wrong to announce my retirement after the Port Said massacre; my teammates and family urged me to change my mind," Barakat was quoted as saying in an interview on Ahly’s official website.

The 35-year-old announced his decision to retire following Egypt’s worst-ever football disaster, when thousands of Masry fans invaded the pitch to confront visiting Ahly supporters after a 1 February league game.

"I watched as Ahly's doctor struggled to save the lives of those who were injured," he said. "The perpetrators of the massacre must be punished."

"I thought about quitting when I saw an Ahly fan die in the changing room. Then I told [Ahly midfielder] Hossam Ghaly about my decision, which he asked me not to announce formally."

"Coach Manuel Jose talked to me a lot about the issue. He told me it wasn't right to abandon football. Football Director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz echoed this sentiment."

"My family also shared their view. My father told me I shouldn't disappoint my fans, who were the ones who made me a star," Barakat said.

Ahly's most consistent performer went on to state his refusal to resume domestic league activities until the fans' murderers had been brought to justice.

"Ahly players have returned to training only for the African Champions League, since I and the other players have promised to win the tournament title for the martyrs' families."

Accusing Masry fans 'loud and clear'

Barakat also called for sanctions to be levied against Port Said side Masry, which he blamed for the February violence.

"Despite my respect for Port Said, I say it loud and clear: Masry fans are responsible for killing the Ahly supporters," he said.

"I don’t know if I can play in Port Said again or not, as it's not my decision," he added. "I will retire from football when I feel I have no more to offer on the green field."

International retirement   

The former Egypt star added that, despite his announcement that he would carry on playing, he wouldn't reverse his decision to retire from international football.

Early last month, Egypt national team coach Bob Bradley said he would speak to Barakat in hopes of convincing him to return to international football.

"I respect Bradley’s position, but I won't change my mind again," the player stressed.

The Red Castle star had previously announced his retirement from international football in 2010 after being overlooked by then coach Hassan Shehata.   

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