Egypt to resume football league suspended after stadium deaths
CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoEgypt said on Feb. 25 its premier football league, suspended after a deadly stampede and clashes at a Cairo stadium, will resume but no fans will be allowed to attend.
The government suspended the league after 19 people were killed on February 8 when police fired tear gas and birdshot at fans trying to force their way into the stadium, leading to a stampede.
A cabinet statement said the premier league would resume following a 40-day mourning period declared after the February 8 incident.
A committee of officials from the interior and sports ministries and the football association will be formed to "adopt measures for the premier league to resume without any spectators after the 40-day mourning period ends," the cabinet said.
It did not specify exactly when matches would resume or say when fans might be allowed back into stadiums.
The incident -- reminiscent of clashes that killed more than 70 people after a football match in Port Said in 2012 -- erupted as thousands of fans tried to push into the stadium to watch a game, triggering panic when police responded.
Egypt's hard-core football fans had often been involved in clashes with police, including in political unrest that has seen two presidents toppled in four years.
The Ultras White Knights -- radical supporters of one of the clubs involved in the February 8 match who have been at the forefront of previous anti-government protests -- accused the authorities of carrying out a "planned massacre" during the February 8 incident.
Since the 2012 Port Said clashes, the country's worst ever sport diaster, most football matches in Egypt have been held without spectators.
The February 8 match was among the first where fans were allowed to attend.
In a televised address on Sunday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to hold accountable anyone responsible for the stadium deaths.