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Monday, May 9, 2011

CAF to Discuss Tunisian Soccer Violence


The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is scheduled to discuss disciplinary measures to curb increased Tunisian soccer violence immediately before a May 15 board meeting for CAF Interclubs Official Draw.

The expected disciplinary steps are in response to militant, violence prone soccer fans disrupting several domestic league matches as well as an African championship match this weekend between Tunisia’s Club Africain and Sudan’s Al-Hilal in the Rades Olympic Stadium pitch.

“What happened is not acceptable at all and the punishment will be strict and quick,”  the president of CAF's technical committee, Mohamed Abdel-Monem “Shatta”, was quoted as saying by Sudanese newspaper Al-Sada.

Tunisian soccer clubs earlier asked the government-backed sports betting agency Promosport to increase their funding after the Tunisian Football Federation last month barred spectators from matches for the rest of the season to prevent further violence.

The clubs say they need the increase because of reduced ticket revenues as well as reduced advertising and sponsorship as a result on the ban.

The incidents confirmed the government’s worst fears which last month only reluctantly agreed to restarting the league competition. The competition was suspended in January to prevent the pitch from becoming a rallying point for protesters who forced Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali to resign after 23 years in power. Militant soccer fans played a key role in the toppling of Ben Ali as well as in protests in Egypt that led to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Some fans believe that the soccer incidents are being forced by supporters of former president Ben Ali in a bid to provoke a police crackdown on protesters and the re-introduction of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.

A reduced police presence and lax security at the match is more likely to be a result the police’s attempts to shore up their tarnished image, avoid clashes with militant fans and prove the need for them to enforce law and order. Like in Egypt, the Tunisian police are widely seen as henchmen of the toppled authoritarian regimes.

Tunisian fans note that this weekend’s incident took place amid mass protests following assertions by a former interior minister that post-Ben Ali Tunisia was being ruled by a shadow government that was in cahoots with the military to stage a coup to prevent Islamists from making gains in election scheduled for July 24.

Tunisian soccer fans and officials hope that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will take Tunisia’s political turmoil into account when it decides how to punish Club Africain for the incident. CAF last month demonstrated leniency when it disciplined crowned Cairo club Al Zamalek for the storming of the pitch in early March in Cairo during an African championship match against Club Africain. CAF rather than banning Zamalek from African matches ordered the club to play two matches behind closed doors and fined it $80,000.

Tunisian fans note that this weekend’s incident took place amid mass protests following assertions by a former interior minister that post-Ben Ali Tunisia was being ruled by a shadow government that was in cahoots with the military to stage a coup to prevent Islamists from making gains in election scheduled for July 24.

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