Egyptian League draw to take place despite Ultras protest
Hatem Maher, Tuesday 4 Sep 2012
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) to hold the league draw on Wednesday, going ahead with plans to start the domestic competition despite protests by Ahly’s hardcore fans

The Egyptian Premier League draw for the 2012-2013 season will take place on Wednesday despite threats made by Ahly’s hardcore supporters against the resumption of domestic football activity.

A number of Ultras Ahlawy members stormed the training ground of their own team on Tuesday, holding aloft banners rebuking any attempts to start the league, which was cancelled last season in the wake of the Port Said disaster.

They insist they would not allow any domestic matches to take place unless the perpetrators of Egypt’s worst-ever football tragedy, which left over 70 Ahly fans dead and hundreds injured, are brought to justice.

“Representatives from the 18 Premier League teams will attend the draw tomorrow after Masry were withdrawn,” the EFA’s stop-gap chairman Amer Hussein was quoted as saying by state-run news agency MENA.

Masry, the hosts of the ill-tempered match in Port Said, were initially banned by the EFA for two seasons but the sanction was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The EFA was fiercely criticized by Ahly for declining to send any representatives to attend a CAS hearing after Masry appealed the decision to ban them, leading to a swift decision to annul the sanction.

Given the sensitivity of the issue, Masry said they were ready to skip the league if the EFA gave them assurances that they would not be demoted to a lower division as a result.

Article 40 of the EFA regulations stipulates that any team who withdraw from the league is immediately relegated to the second division. The article has been amended to resolve the crisis, exempting the clubs who pull out because of security concerns.

Fresh problem

The EFA faced a fresh problem on Tuesday, with the decision to exclude Masry from the league falling short of meeting Ultras Ahlawy demands.

The ardent group of supporters, many of whom were on the receiving end of the Port Said crowd riots, is enraged with attempts to kick-start domestic football “before justice is done”.

A number of Masry fans and security officials are currently facing trial over charges of premeditated murder and negligence respectively, but none has been convicted so far.

The die-hard Ahly fans did not specify the actions they would take if the EFA went ahead with its plans to hold the league.

EFA acting chairman Hussein said the first half of the season will be played at military-owned stadiums behind closed doors, defying calls to allow the spectators to return to the stands after a seven-month crowd ban.

The ban was partially lifted when up to 3,000 Zamalek fans were allowed to attend the team’s African Champions League game against Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea on Saturday.

The EFA initially said that it would gradually permit fan attendance but has suddenly retracted its decision.

The new season kicks off on Saturday when 2011 league winners Ahly take on Egypt Cup holders ENPPI in the annual Super Cup.

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