Egypt halt domestic football plans after pitch invasion

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Egypt have abandoned plans to resume domestic football in mid-April after a weekend crowd invasion forced the abandonment of a high-profile African Champions League club match in Cairo.

Local team Zamalek were leading Tunisian visitors Club Africain 2-1 as the second round, second leg qualifier drew to a close and needed another goal to squeeze through on the away-goal rule having lost 4-2 in Tunis two weeks ago.

The five-time African champions thought they had got that goal when an Ahmed Gaafar header landed in the net only for the Egyptian to be ruled offside by the Algerian match offcials with television replays backing the decision.

This sparked a pitch invasion with an initial few supporters soon followed by several hundred and track-suited security officials successfully raced to protect the referee and his assistants before escorting them from the field.

Several Tunisian footballers were not so lucky with captain Wissem Ben Yahia, Aymen Soltani and Seifeddine Akremi reportedly injured amid the chaos while Zamalek supporters also dismantled the goal posts.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has apologised to Tunisia over the incident and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ordered an inquiry after saying the violence had damaged the reputation of Egypt.

African Champions League organisers seem certain to award the tie to Club Africain while Zamalek could face various punishments, including a fine and being forced to stage African fixtures outside Cairo behind closed doors.

Egypt had hoped to resume the 16-club national championship on April 13 after a three-month stoppage caused by the revolt that ousted long-time authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

But national football association president Samir Zaher reacted to what happened at the 75,000-seat Cairo Stadium by announcing Sunday that the resumption of the league had been postponed indefinitely.

“After speaking with the authorities we decided to postpone the league without setting a date for its resumption,” Zaher told media in the Egyptian capital.

“What happened in the game between Zamalek and Club Africain made it clear that matches cannot be resumed. Maybe we can resume the league at a later stage behind closed doors.”

This was the fifth African club fixture to be staged in Egypt since Mubarak lost a three-decade grip on power and the first at which there were crowd incidents.

But the other four games lacked the appeal and passion that comes with a fixture between teams from North African countries as fierce rivalries developed in regional and Pan-African competitions rise to the surface.

All the goals came in the first half with Mahmoud Fathallah converting a Zamalek penalty, Karim Aouadhi levelling off a long-range free kick and Hussein Yasser putting the home team ahead again on the stroke of half-time.

The Egyptians had several chances to increase their lead during the second half but Mahmoud ‘Shikabala’ Abdelrazek and Fathallah were the chief culprits as opportunities went abegging.

Fellow Egyptians Al-Ahly, winners of the Champions League a record six times, edged through 2-1 on aggregate against SuperSport United in South Africa despite losing to a superb first-half Jabu Maluleke goal off a free kick.

Dipsy Selolwane hit an Ahly post before the goal as SuperSport lived up to a pre-match boast that they would not fear the mighty ‘Red Devils’ with a superb passing game and the visitors never troubled goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez.

Al-Hilal of Sudan and Diaraf of Senegal advanced convincingly while InterClube of Angola needed a penalty shootout and three-time champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco the away-goal rule to secure their last-16 places.

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