Security stepped up after Algerian footballers are stoned
CAIRO: World football governing body Fifa warned Egypt yesterday to step up security for a key World Cup qualifier with Algeria after stonethrowing fans injured three away players as they were being bussed to the team hotel.
Fifa said it would announce what action if any it was taking against the Egyptian football federation later in the day after considering a detailed report on the incident from its representatives on the ground in Cairo.
One Fifa representative, Walter Gagg, confirmed that three Algerian players had sustained injuries which may yet rule them out of today’s key game, which will decide which of the bitter North African rivals advances to the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.
“We saw that three players had been injured --Khaled Lemmouchia on the head, Rafik Halliche above the eye and Rafik Saifi on the arm,” Gagg said.
“These weren’t superficial injuries,” he stressed. “With the stitches needed, we will have to see if these players can play.”
Gagg said Algeria’s goalkeeping coach had suffered concus- sion, and described the bus as in a “very bad way with broken windows and traces of blood on the floor”.
His report of events contrasted with that of the Egyptian police, who insisted that none of the Algerian players had been injured by the stonethrowing, and even more so with those of the Egyptian press which charged that the whole incident was a fabrication.
A Fifa spokesman said: “We have reiterated to the Egyptian association our request that all security measures be taken so that the match can go ahead.”
The Algerian El Watan newspaper showed a photograph of midfielder Lemmouchia’s bloodied head with the headline “After the ambush against the Greens.”
The paper said it thought it unlikely that Saturday’s game would be cancelled because of the injuries to the players but suggested that the Egyptian federation might be fined.
“Despite the hostility of the Egyptians, the Greens will not give in,” the paper said.
Egyptian newspapers insisted that Algerian players had faked the whole incident, further inflaming the atmosphere despite appeals from the Egyptian authorities in the build-up to the game for reaponsible coverage.
Leading state-owned daily AlAhram said it was the Algerian players, not stonethrowers, who had damaged the bus.
“Some of the players started to smash the vehicle’s windows claiming that they were the target of stonethrowing,” the paper reported.
The independent daily Al-Shuruq accused the players of a “complete fabrication intended to serve as an excuse in the event that they lose” the game.
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki had told the media they should “work to maintain the strong ties between both countries and should not fuel disagreements that are unrelated to sports.”
The pre-match atmosphere in Egypt had already surged to feverish heights.
Around 70,000 Egyptians are expected to pack the stadium on Saturday. Around 2,000 tickets have been allocated to Algerian fans. – Sapa-AFP