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MIDEAST > Egypt football on hold

CAIRO - Anatolia News Agency

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Football fans flee from a fire at Port Said where over 70 were killed in February. REUTERS Photo

Football fans flee from a fire at Port Said where over 70 were killed in February. REUTERS Photo

The entire 2012-13 Egyptian football season will be canceled after the Interior Ministry officially rejected a request from the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) to resume play following deadly crowd violence, sparking concern from football officials about the game’s future.

“Football fans and players might start protests against the ministry,” EFA spokesman Azmi Megahed told Anatolia news agency. “It puts footballers playing in lower leagues in a difficult position, financially. They might be forced to commit crimes to overcome financial issues. The ministry should find a solution.”

The EFA had requested that the league return to the pitch again on Aug. 24, but the ministry refused the calls due to lingering concerns over stadium safety.

Regular football activities have been indefinitely suspended since crowd violence in Port Said on Feb. 1 that claimed the lives of 74 al-Ahly supporters during a match against local side al-Masry.

Most of those killed were trampled in the crush of the panicking crowd, while others fell or were thrown from terraces. At least 1,000 people were also injured in the violence.

On March 10, the EFA announced that the football season would not resume.

“Following our request to start the Premier League on Aug. 24 and resume Egyptian Cup matches behind closed doors, the Interior Ministry has officially announced its refusal to stage any football matches,” Megahed said according to the body’s official website.

Other authorities had allegedly given the EFA the go-ahead on a previous occasion but the Interior Ministry, which is headed by Mohamed Ibrahim, ruled otherwise for the time being.

Megahed told Anatolia news agency that they were “deeply concerned” about the decision.

FIFA Executive Committee member Hani Abou Raida said he thought it was a “rushed decision” and said there was a risk the world football’s governing body might sanction the EFA by possibly forcing the national team to play its games outside the country.

July/17/2012

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