FIFA executive committee member Hani Abou-Reida (Photo: Ahram)
Ahly’s hardcore supporters (Ultras Ahlawy) have breathed a sigh of relief after foes Hani Abou-Reida and Ahmed Shobeir withdrew from the Egyptian Football Association elections on Wednesday.
The ardent fan group, which is relentlessly calling for swift justice in the notorious Port Said case, persistently demanded that the former members of the now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) be barred from running football in the country.
Ultras Ahlawy say this demand is part of their fight to “clean up the corrupt football system in Egypt”.
Abou-Reida, who is also an executive committee member of world governing body FIFA, was due to run for EFA president. However, his hopes were dealt a major blow after the EFA’s appeals committee disqualified him “on legal grounds” last month.
The committee said Abou-Reida was not eligible to contest the elections because he served as an EFA official for two consecutive terms.
Its decision was based on a court ruling, prompting Abou-Reida to consider filing a complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) due to alleged government interference in football affairs, which is strictly prohibited by FIFA.
However, he had a change of heart.
“I decided not to take any action against the decision to disqualify me. I had a chance to go to CAS but I will not take the matter to a non-Egyptian entity,” he said in a television interview in the late hours of Wednesday.
Shobeir, who is known for his regular attack on Ultras Ahlawy, followed suit.
“I said it from the beginning, if Abou-Reida decided to withdraw then I would withdraw,” the former Ahly keeper, who sought to become an EFA board member, said.
“Glory for the martyrs”
Describing him as one of the remnants of the dismantled regime, Ultras Ahlawy accused Abou-Reida of conspiring against Ahly in the Port Said case.
Port Said club Masry were initially banned by the EFA for two years following February's football disaster which left more than 70 Ahly fans killed following the end of an ill-tempered league game.
However, the ban was swiftly overturned by CAS because the EFA declined to send a representative to attend a hearing CAS held to look into the case. Ultras Ahlawy alleged that Abou-Reida deliberately played a role in the EFA gaffe to spare Masry, the club of his hometown, any punishments.
“Another demand is fulfilled after Abou-Reida and Shobeir withdrew from the EFA elections,” the group said on its popular Facebook page.
“Glory for the martyrs, whose death has become a turning point to end football corruption. There is no place for corrupt leaders. Glory for the martyrs!”
However, it remains to be seen whether the duo’s disqualification will be enough to convince Ultras Ahlawy to give up their demand of canceling plans to start the Egyptian Premier League this month.
New sports minister El-Amry Farouk, who has tried to act as a mediator between authorities and Ultras Ahlawy since being appointed, insisted the league would go ahead on 17 October as planned.
The fan group staged many protests, including violent ones, to underscore their intent not to let the EFA kick-start domestic football, suspended since the Port Said tragedy.
They say the culprits of the disaster must be brought to justice before any football activity is resumed.
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