Egypt Back in the Game; Tunisia, Libya in Doubt
Cape Town. Football returned to Egypt on Sunday against a backdrop of celebration and mourning, but continuing tensions in North Africa mean games in Libya and Tunisia are still likely to be cancelled or relocated.
Zamalek, one of Egypt’s top two clubs, wore black armbands and held a minute’s silence for victims of the violent demonstrations that led to the toppling of Egypt’s long-standing president, Hosni Mubarak.
Zamalek beat Ulinzi of Kenya 1-0 in an African Champions League match postponed from last month.
The game was watched by a capacity crowd of 22,000 at Cairo’s Military Stadium, strictly patrolled by soldiers.
Egypt’s top clubs last week expressed the hope that an incident-free match would prompt authorities to give permission for a re-start of the league in early March.
After Sunday’s game, Zamalek’s coach felt that had been achieved.
“It was more important that we got life back to normal than worrying about the victory,” Hossam Hassan told Egyptian television.
But plans to resume league action in Tunisia were cancelled on Saturday in a brief statement from the country’s Youth and Sports Ministry, which said all matches had been postponed for “security reasons.”
Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned on Sunday after violent weekend protests over his ties to the toppled former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, whose departure precipitated a shutdown of all sports activity in the country.
The Cairo-based Confederation of African Football confirmed on Sunday it would make a decision this week over the upcoming African Youth Championships, scheduled to be hosted by Libya.
“It is obvious we will have to do something and the first choice is likely a postponement,” general-secretary Hicham El Amrany said on Sunday.
Ghana and South Africa have been asked to consider taking over as hosts for the eight-team tournament, which serves as the continent’s final qualifiers for the World U-20 Cup in Colombia in July and August.
It was due to start in Tripoli and Benghazi on March 18.