File photo of Zamalek (the club's official Facebook page)
Cairo's popular club Zamalek said on Wednesday they will not play when the Egyptian Premier League resumes in late July, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
All clubs were ordered to run PCR tests for their players and technical staff members after the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) was given the green light by the government to restart the premier domestic competition on 25 July.
The majority of Premier League clubs said they opposed the scheduled resumption of the league, but many said they would not mind playing if the state wanted them to.
However, Zamalek, who almost lost hopes of challenging runaway leaders and arch rivals Ahly for the title, said their board reached a decision to withdraw from the competition after a meeting with French coach Patrice Carteron.
"The board of directors, led by chairman Mortada Mansour, unanimously agreed not to continue the league competition this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic," the White Knights said in a brief statement.
It remains to be seen whether Zamalek would put their decision into effect, given that eccentric chairman Mansour is known for backtracking on similar threats in the past.
Earlier on Wednesday, the EFA said six coronavirus cases were detected at Premier League clubs. Enppi and Ittihad of Alexandria confirmed that they had detected four cases and one case respectively.
Both sides did not identify those who contracted the virus as per guidelines introduced by the EFA.
Sports activities have been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus, but the government has decided to allow teams to resume training starting 20 June.
The reopening is part of a wider relaxation of restrictions that will see restaurants, sporting clubs and mosques open their doors starting Saturday, alongside the scrapping of the country's nighttime curfew.
Defending champions Ahly are the overwhelming favourites to win a fifth straight title as they top the table with 49 points after 17 games, 16 ahead of the nearest challengers Arab Contractors, who have played one game more than the Red Devils.
Zamalek are fourth in the table with 31 points, having played a game less than Ahly and two less than Arab Contractors.
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