Se­cu­rity stepped up af­ter Al­ge­rian foot­ballers are stoned

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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