Egypt lifts crowd ban for national team matches

Egypt will allow fans to attend any match involving the national team, the sports minister said on Wednesday, signaling a possible gradual easing of restrictions on fan attendance after a crowd ban was imposed following a football tragedy in February.

Khaled Abdel-Aziz told reporters Egypt will enjoy the backing of their fans when they play home matches in the qualifying campaigns for the 2017 African Cup of Nations and 2018 World Cup.

The Pharaohs had to do without their supporters when they crushed Tanzania 3-0 in Alexandria in their opening Group G game of the Nations Cup qualifiers in June.

“Fan support is crucial to Egypt’s chances in the Nations Cup and World Cup. The authorities are aware of the importance of having the fans back in the stands,” Abdel-Aziz added.

An intermittent crowd ban has been in place since over 70 Ahly fans were killed following crowd riots after the end of an Egyptian Premier League game against Masry in Port Said in February 2012.

In February this year, just when the crowd ban was partially lifted in domestic matches, 21 Zamalek fans died in a stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces before the start of a league game against ENPPI, prompting authorities to re-impose the ban for an indefinite period.

Hardcore fan groups of Ahly and Zamalek lobbied for the ban to be lifted, with thousands of members attending training sessions to make their case and prove that the problem is not theirs, pointing finger at security forces for a perceived failure to secure football matches.

Abdel-Aziz also said the fans will be present should Ahly and Zamalek meet in the African Confederation Cup, the continent’s secondary club competition, citing the regulations of African governing body CAF.

Both teams have already secured a last-four berth with one match to spare in the group stage.

source:Ahram online

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