FIFA awaits Port Said report
Despite the resignation of the Egyptian Football Association, the case is not closed. Inas Mazhar
With the resignation of the EFA board members the case is closed as far as FIFA is concerned, for in this case, there is no government interference which football's world governing body says is a violation of its charter.
On Thursday, a day after the deadly violence in Port Said stadium left 74 people dead and 1,000 injured, the EFA board was dissolved by order of the prime minister. In turn, the EFA said it would complain to FIFA, citing government interference and a bald attempt by its members to stay in their jobs.FIFA President Sepp Blatter insisted the Egypt FA must be reinstated, calling their dismissal and/or resignation "direct interference" by the government. Blatter said he believed they were forced to resign, making the move related to government interference.Blatter's comments came while speaking at a special congress of South American football officials in Asuncion, Paraguay. The remarks were a direct response to the Egyptian government dissolving the FA in the wake of Wednesday's tragedy in Port Said which claimed more than 70 lives.The axing of federation president Samir Zaher and its members, according to Blatter, constituted "a direct interference in the organisation of football.
"We will look to have the Egyptian federation reinstated and, naturally, see that this situation does not repeat itself," Blatter said, describing the situation in Egypt is "very delicate."
However, the board resigned on Saturday, apparently sensed that the public, sports officials and media were opposed to its members staying on. The incident surrounding the match was also so grave as to put enormous pressure on the EFA board to quit. Most important is that for the first time, the National Sports Council was aware of the consequences of government interference if the federation was dissolved. It could lead to a two-year suspension of football activity in Egypt.
Accordingly, Deputy Minister Mustafa Azzam told Al-Ahram Weekly that the authorities had not pushed or forced the EFA to resign and that the EFA stepped down of its own accord. "They knew there were calls for them to leave.
"Egypt had prepared a letter to FIFA explaining that the government would still follow FIFA regulations in terms of having elected officials running the sport. Accordingly, the secretary-general would be running the EFA according to a decision taken by the General Assembly until elections take place. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet on 17 February to set a date for elections of a new board.
"We sent a letter to FIFA in addition to other letters from the majority of the General Assembly agreeing to dissolve the EFA," Azzam said confirming that the government will not risk Egypt being suspended by FIFA.
Following the deadly incident at the Ahli-Masri game, FIFA announced it was mourning the deaths and offered its assistance to the EFA.
Thursday's statement came as follows: "FIFA is deeply saddened by the tragic incidents which led to the death of football fans and others at last night's match in Port Said. As expressed by President Blatter in a letter to the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) today, FIFA is in mourning and our thoughts are with the families of all those who lost their lives."
Furthermore, FIFA asked the Egyptian authorities for a full report on the incident.
FIFA has established strict safety regulations for all of its competitions. Article One, paragraph two of FIFA's regulations state that it is the responsibility of the respective organiser and local authorities to apply their own safety regulations.
FIFA also offered its full support to the Egyptian Football Association and said it will provide the EFA with any assistance it needs with regards to the tragedy.
In his letter to the EFA, Blatter said, "I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured following a match in Port Said, Egypt.
"My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives this evening and I fully understand the country's shock and anger that such a disaster could have come to pass.
"This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen. We must ensure that such a catastrophe never happens again. Football is a force for good, and we must not allow it to be abused by those who mean evil."
Blatter reportedly telephoned Zaher hours before Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri announced in parliament on Thursday the decision to dissolve the EFA board of directors.
"As discussed by telephone this morning, I await further news from you concerning the circumstances of this tragedy. As always, FIFA stands by your side at this difficult time and is ready to provide you with any support you may need," Blatter said.
For more reaction from FIFA about the investigation into the Port Sad tragedy, Al-Ahram Weekly contacted Delia Fischer, deputy head of the FIFA media department.
"At the moment there is no more to add to the statement as we need await to receive the report from the Egyptian authorities," Fischer told the Weekly.
Fischer added that according to Article One part 2, "In the event that the confederations organise the preliminary competition of a FIFA event or the Olympic football tournaments in accordance with the respective FIFA competition regulations, and in the event that the confederations or the associations organise their respective competitions, tournaments and matches, their own safety regulations shall be applicable. The present FIFA regulations may only serve as guidelines.
"These regulations set for safety and security are intended to make all match organisers aware of their duties and responsibilities before, during and after matches. These regulations contain the safety measures that match organisers, associations and clubs must take to help to prevent crowd disturbances and to help to ensure a minimum of safety and order within the confines and vicinity of the stadium.
"The regulations also detail the structural, technical, organisational and operational measures that must be carried out when a football match is hosted in a stadium. Match organisers, associations and clubs must take all reasonable measures necessary to ensure safety in and around the stadium. Associations and clubs are responsible for the behaviour of the persons entrusted with the organisation of matches," Fischer added.
FIFA needs the EFA report to see whether the EFA and the Port Said stadium officials took the necessary precautions as stipulated in its guidelines.