Al-Masry was forced to cancel its training session on Monday when only eight of the team’s 28 players showed up. FilGoal quoted the club’s website as saying the absentee players were each fined EGP 10,000 (US$ 1,700) for missing training without permission.
The EFA effort to curb salaries as well as transfer pricing has driven a wedge between players and coaches on the one hand and fans on the other with players resisting the call for salary cuts.
The boycott of the Al-Masry training session was the first incident in which players took their opposition beyond verbal denunciations. The EFA says the cuts are part of badly needed financial austerity to help cash-strapped clubs cope with the fallout of the political turmoil in Egypt that last month toppled President Hosni Mubarak and the suspension of league matches since January.
Soccer fans are insisting that the demand for political and economic reform in Egypt be extended to the football sector. Fans have recently denounced players for demanding millions in salaries while a majority of the country lives on $2 a day and for failing to support the mass protests that led to Mubarak’s resignation after 30 years in office.
Seven Ittihad Al-Skandarya players in the port city of Alexandria missed training this week because of the club’s failure to pay their rents. “I couldn’t argue with them after their decision. Players can be patient with late wages, but their home rents should have been paid,” said Ittihad coach Mohamed Amer.
Demonstrators last week forced the chairman of Ittihad, a member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, and three of the club’s board members to resign because of Ittihad’s poor performance in the league. The board members were the first casualties of fans flexing the muscles of their newly found people power.
Fan anger and activism has prevented Egypt’s ruling military authorities from endorsing a call by the EFA to resume matches. The military fears that fans and spectators may turn the soccer pitch into a venue for protests against its transitional rule as well as the players and clubs.