Monday,18 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1405, ( 9 - 15 August 2018)
Monday,18 February, 2019
Issue 1405, ( 9 - 15 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Fans are still out

Egypt’s domestic league competition kicked off earlier this week but the fan ban continues


Zamalek sets the highest score against Ittihad of Alexandria
Zamalek sets the highest score against Ittihad of Alexandria
Al-Ahram Weekly

Tomorrow, Friday, the most popular national sports competition enters its third week, reports Inas Mazhar. Zamalek’s 5-1 victory over Ittihad of Alexandria was the biggest score in the new season’s Egypt’s Premier League which started this year earlier than ever before. The White Castle played to a scoreless draw in the first week of the competition against Petrojet, an unexpected result that drove the club’s controversial president Mortada Mansour to cut LE100,000 from the players as a penalty for their lacklustre performance in their debut match.

There were no surprises in the first two weeks of the 18-team competition. The first week saw three out of eight matches ending in a draw: Ittihad and the Arab Contractors drew 1-1 as did Ahly and Ismaili and Dakhlyia vs Wadi Degla, whereas Al-Geish and Negoum Al-Mostakbal played to a scoreless draw.

On the other hand, Masri, Semouha and Pyramids were winners. Masri beat Al- Gouna 1-0 while Semouha beat Masr Al-Maqassa 2-1. Pyramids, formerly known as Al-Assiouti, scored a 1-0 win over ENPPI.

The second week saw not only the revival of Zamalek but Dakhlyia also scoring its first victory this season as they beat Harras Al-Hedoud 2-1. The second week concluded yesterday, Wednesday, after Al-Ahram Weekly went to press.

The domestic competition started behind closed doors for the sixth season in a row despite calls for allowing fans back in. Football fans have been banned from domestic league games in Egypt since February 2012 when 72 fans, mainly Ahly supporters, were killed in a soccer riot following a domestic game in Port Said Stadium.

Before the competition kicked off, it was announced by the EFA’s head of competition Amer Hussein that each team would be allowed only 15 fans. The statement found its way to social media platforms and of course instigated sarcasm and jokes from followers and users.

Then, on Monday, Egypt’s Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi called the presidents and board members of football clubs as well as EFA officials to meet at the headquarters of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to discuss the ban. But there was no clear decision of note taken and no formal statement that says fans can return to the stadiums.

However, a statement from the Ministry of Youth and Sports said that the parties had come up with recommendations, including allowing spectators to return gradually as of the beginning of September, and the EFA preparing a complete study on plans to bring back spectators and sending it to football clubs by 9 August. A reply should be expected a week later, by 16 August. The study should include a pilot project using university students in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the EFA. Organising the return of the spectators to the other activities and competitions of the EFA in cooperation between the EFA and the various ministries and authorities involved in the process was also suggested.

Again, the statement was vague and brought up more controversy especially from the media and among football lovers on social media, allowing for rumours and reports to surface and mocking the officials for failing to produce an understandable statement. While the statement did not give any details about the figures, some reports claimed that only 5,000 will be allowed in for local matches and a maximum of 20,000 in international matches for the national team and clubs playing in African competitions. Some reports also claimed that the 5,000 at local matches will start gradually from 500 and increase, according to the behaviour of the fans in the matches.

The fan ban was briefly lifted in January 2015 but was reimposed after 20 Zamalek fans were killed in a stampede when police used tear gas to disperse the crowds lined up to buy tickets wanting to attend a regular season game against Enppi.

According to TV presenter Ahmed Shobeir, recommendations urged allowing the entrance of 3,000 fans of the home team in local competitions and 1,500 to the visitors in addition to 500 disabled fans. As for the national team, international matches and the African and Arab matches and competitions, the numbers are open.

During the ban, authorities have permitted a limited number of fans to attend African championship games and national team matches, as stipulated by the FIFA.

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