File photo: Saad Samir of Egypt's Ahly (R) fights for the ball with Ahmed Gaafar of Egypt's Zamalek during their CAF Champions League derby soccer match at Borg El Arab "Army Stadium", September 16, 2012. The game was played without spectators. (Photo: Reuters)
Sunday’s African Champions League face-off between Cairo rivals Ahly and Zamalek will be played behind closed doors, the Egyptian football association (EFA) announced on Monday.
The future of the anticipated match was uncertain, as officials debated whether or not to hold the match outside Egypt due to security concerns.
Early on Sunday, Egyptian authorities agreed to move the game to El-Gouna, a Red Sea resort town that is about 22 km north of Hurghada’s International Airport.
Despite threats made by hardcore fans of both teams to attend the match by force, the Egyptian football governing body insists the crowd ban is still in place.
"The interior ministry sent us its official approval to hold the match but without fan attendance," EFA chief executive Sarwat Sweilam was quoted as saying by the EFA's official website.
Matches during the current season have been played behind closed doors due to security concerns.
The Egyptian Premier League has been effectively called off for the second consecutive season due to lingering security concerns in the wake of Egyptian president Morsi’s ouster by the army on 3 July.
Ahly and Zamalek will have to play in the afternoon because the tiny 12,000-seater stadium is not equipped with floodlights.
Some players have already voiced concerns about having to play in searing daytime heat while also fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ahly are eyeing a second successive Champions League triumph, while success-starved Zamalek are chasing their first continental title since 2002.
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