The Egyptian Football Association has decided the 2012-2013 season will be held, a direct challenge to the Ministry of Interior which cancelled the domestic competition, Inas Mazhar reports
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Ahli and Zamalek are ready to battle it out at the African Champions League as scheduled on Sunday at the Military Stadium
Reacting to the decision by the Ministry of Interior which banned the resumption of national competitions in Egypt, the EFA executive committee, currently running the EFA, decided to take up the challenge and kick off the competition on 24 August without fans.
According to EFA media director and spokesman Azmi Megahed, the EFA doesn't need security. "We can manage on our own and we don't need security but we can't afford not to go on with our activities. The sport has lost enough. The football business is collapsing.
"The decision is a catastrophe. We call on President (Mohamed) Mursi to intervene. Second and third division clubs have no money and the players are searching for other means where they can earn incomes," Megahed said on the official website of the EFA.
A statement appeared on the EFA official website recommending holding the matches without fans in order to continue the competition. "The EFA suggests resuming the competition without fans and holding all responsibility of securing the matches in cooperation with the participating clubs."
The current football season was cancelled even before the midway mark because of the Port Said tragedy on 1 February this year which left more than 70 people dead following a league game. Now it looks like the next season might not be played as well.
Earlier in the week, the Ministry of Interior sent an official letter to the EFA in reply to their request to resume the national competitions -- the national league and the Egypt Cup which this year was also cancelled before it began. The EFA refused to secure the matches saying security requirements have not yet been implemented.
Following the Port Said disaster which was related mainly to lack of security precautions in the match, the general prosecution recommended installing monitoring cameras, electronic gates, and metal detectors like those in airports in addition to installing huge fences to separate the spectators from the field and make it difficult for a pitch invasion.
Since February, the league and the cup have been suspended and all attempts to resume the events have failed for the past month. Security officials insist on implementing safety conditions first in all Egyptian stadiums but this is almost impossible in all stadiums because of a lack of funds during the economic crisis Egypt is facing.
The decision by the Ministry of Interior however does not affect next Sunday's Ahli versus Zamalek match in the quarter-finals of the African Champions League. The match will be held as scheduled on 22 July at the Military Stadium in Heliopolis without fans. Both clubs have agreed to kick off at 10pm because of the heat wave currently enveloping Egypt. Any other future international matches for Egyptian clubs and national teams will be held without fans as well.
Following the decision by the Ministry of Interior on Sunday, several football officials from the EFA and clubs opened fire on the police for letting them down and making it difficult for them to start the new season.
Megahed was the first to criticise the decisions, describing it as "unstudied" and that it would ruin Egyptian football.
One of the main reasons for Egypt's failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations final for a second time in a row was, according to head coach Bob Bradley, because of the suspension of the national competitions. The American had blamed that to the lack of practice of the players making it very difficult to select the best players to represent the pharaohs.
And now this ban might even lead to failing to fulfill a long awaited dream of qualifying to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"Egypt's football future is at stake and will be affected for some years if the competitions are suspended for another season," said Megahed." It is a critical situation; the whole business will collapseŅê¦ football is an industry and with no competitions clubs will be suffering even more."
"We hope the security officials would reconsider their decision and give it a second thought," Azmi added.
Ahli football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz said a whole generation of players will be affected by the decision. "This means that there will be no football activity for almost two years. I hope they reconsider or else we might lose a whole generation of footballers."
Zamalek's Ahmed Hassan, the player with the most caps in world history, urged the security officials to reconsider "or the football family will suffer. There are millions of people involved in that business, not only players."
Some Zamalek officials called for a protest march but after the Ahli and Zamalek African game.
Enppi club head coach Tarek El-Ashri said that Egyptian football is already suffering and there is no need to cause more damage to the business. "It will definitely be affected, technically and economically and Egypt's preparations and quest to qualify to the World Cup would definitely be affected," El-Ashri said adding that the resumption of the competitions would mean that security is stable in the country "and we need that."
Enppi's forward Ahmed Abdel-Zaher also called for the resumption of the competitions for the sake of the sport saying that the sport has lost enough and there is no need for more losses.