x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Egypt to play Fifa World Cup qualifier in Cairo

Violence-hit Egyptian capital to host football match after two years.

Playing football in front of spectators has become risky especially since violence broke out in Port Said in 2012. Ahmed Hassan / AP Photo
Playing football in front of spectators has become risky especially since violence broke out in Port Said in 2012. Ahmed Hassan / AP Photo

Egypt’s national football team will play in Cairo for the first time in two years, and for a spot in the Fifa World Cup.

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) decided on Wednesday to hold the second leg of the World Cup play-off against Ghana in November at a military stadium in the violence-hit capital.

The EFA also said that fans would be allowed in to watch the November 15 game at the 30 June Stadium.

The decision to play in Cairo for the first time since late 2011 was taken after discussions between the national football body, sports minister Taher Abouzeid, a former Egyptian international player, and state authorities.

Egypt have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990, but under Bob Bradley, the former United States coach, they progressed to the final two-leg play-offs for a place in Brazil next year with a perfect six wins in their group, the only team out of 40 to do that.

Bradley also had called for the play-off against Ghana, the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists, to be held in Cairo and in front of fans to boost the Egyptians’ chances of making it to football’s main event. The 30 June Stadium has a capacity of 30,000 and the EFA said it would be full for the Ghana game.

“We would love to play in Cairo,” Bradley had said after the play-off draw last week in Cairo. “That is the dream of the team.”

Egypt’s last game in Cairo was a 3-0 win over Niger in October 2011, four months before a deadly riot at a league game in the Mediterranean city of Port Said left more than 70 fans dead in the midst of the country’s political turmoil.

Since then, Egypt’s national team have played in Alexandria and more recently in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna to avoid the unrest that has swept through Cairo and other major cities. The games have largely been played behind closed doors, although a few thousand supporters were allowed in to watch in El Gouna.

Despite being the record seven-time African champions, Egypt’s football has been tied to the upheaval at home that began with the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, their longtime president. Then Egypt, the three-time defending champions, surprisingly failed to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup and also missed out on the continental championship this year in South Africa.

The first leg of the decisive World Cup play-off is scheduled for October 15 in Ghana.

sports@thenational.ae