Egypt throws gate open to fans ahead of clash with Eagles
To ensure maximum support for their Pharaohs when they meet the Super Eagles in the on-going African Nations Cup qualifying series, the Egypt Football Association (EFA) has removed the ban on fans watching matches of the national team.
Egypt’s Sports Minister, Khaled Abdel-Aziz, said on Wednesday that fans will now be allowed to attend matches involving the national team, a move that signals a possible gradual easing of restrictions on fan attendance after a crowd ban was imposed following a football tragedy in February.
According to a report by ahram.org.eg, Abdel-Aziz told reporters Egypt would 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. Egypt will meet Nigeria in a Gabon 2017 qualifier in Cairo on March 27, 2016, just four days after the first leg in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, national team coach, Hector Cuper, believes his team will be ready when they confront the Eagles on March 23, 2016. Egypt defeated Chad 5-1 away to remain top of group G, two points ahead of Nigeria, which played a goalless draw against Tanzania at the weekend.
Nigeria will host the Pharaohs of Egypt between March 23 and 26, before the team then travels to Cairo between March 26 and 29 in what many consider as the games to determine the winner of this Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group for Gabon.
Cuper, who is hoping to return the Pharaohs to the continental football after seven years of absence, said that the team was ready to face Nigeria’s challenge in the qualifying series. “All matches are important, but facing strong teams (like Nigeria) is critical in order to assess the team and players,” adds the coach. “The process is going smoothly and calmly. They shouldn’t get over-excited because that’s dangerous in football.”