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James Corbett, Inside World Football


Saturday, March 12, 2011

EFA Presses Egyptian Military to Authorize Resumption of Soccer Matches

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) is urging the country’s military rulers to authorize a resumption next month of professional league matches that have been suspended since late January because of political turmoil that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office.

The EFA, in a bid to alleviate the military concern’s that soccer matches could become an opposition rallying point, has said it would agree to hold the first two rounds of a revived league behind closed doors.

The military took control from Mubarak with a pledge to lead Egypt to free and fair elections within six months.

EFA Chairman Samir Zaher said he together the head of the Egyptian Sports Council, Hassan Sakr, would meet with the Premier League clubs on Saturday to discuss the resumption of matches.

The clubs desperately want a resumption of matches to alleviate their increasing financial troubles as a result of the suspension of the league and uncertainty about continued government support. At least half of Egypt’s 16 Premier League teams are owned by government institutions, the military and the police.

“I suggested that we resume the league activities next month and hold two rounds behind closed doors. The EFA and clubs unanimously agree that it is very important to restart the competition because any cancellation will lead to dire financial consequences for all parties,” Zaher said.

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has so far been reluctant to authorize a lifting of the suspension on matches because anti-government protests that have continued since Mubarak’s ousting on February have included demonstrations demanding reform of the country’s soccer.

Protesters have forced the board of one Premier Club, Ittihad Al-Skandarya, to resign and are demanding the resignation of Egypt’s national coach, Hassan Shehata and of Al Zamalek SC board member Ibrahim Hassan, and his brother, Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan because of their support for Mubarak at a time that fans played a key role in the demonstrations that toppled the Egyptian president.

Protesters have further taken players and coaches to task for staying on the sidelines of Egypt’s popular revolt and backed EFA proposals to curb soccer salaries – proposals that have been rejected by most players and coaches.

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