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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt Crisis Puts African Teams in Financial Jeopardy


Egypt’s political crisis has put African national soccer teams that participated in last month’s seven-nation inaugural Nile Basin tournament in financial jeopardy.

The teams, including those of Kenya, Uganda and Congo, had counted on monies earned during the tournament to finance their preparations for next year’s Africa Cup.

The Nile Basin tournament was funded by the Egyptian oil ministry in a bid to improve relations with Nile Basin countries strained because of disputes over water rights.

Egypt beat Uganda in the Nile final 3:1, which earned the runner-up $125,000. Congo expected to walk away with $100,000 for ending third in the tournament and Kenya $60,000 for its fourth place.

The teams were told that the monies had been wired to them, but none have received funds. Efforts to reach officials of the Egyptian Football Association, whose fans are playing a key role in the mass demonstrations seeking to topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, have been futile.

"The last time we communicated, they told us they are waiting for the situation to stabilize before they can release the money. We are still waiting, but we do not know when this will be, as the chaos keep getting worse by the day," said Hussein Swaleh, head of Football Kenya’s technical committee.

Egypt’s failure to meet its obligations is likely to dampen the goodwill it hoped to leverage in its dispute with other Nile littoral states.

The disputed erupted as a result of calls by Ethiopia and its allies for a renegotiation of the allocation of water shares under a 1929 agreement arranged by Britain, the colonial power that at the time controlled much of the Nile Basin.

The agreement gives Egypt that depends for virtually all of its water on the Nile the right to veto any large-scale usage of the river’s resource that it deems detrimental to its national interest.

Egypt had hoped that the tournament would help divert attention from the conflict and prevent it from escalating. The championship was also intended to signal that it realized that a resolution would have to involve a degree of compromise rather than a confrontation as it had suggested earlier.

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