Egypt can open World Cup qualifying at home

CAIRO (AP)—Egypt has been allowed to open its World Cup qualifying campaign at home next month but it’s still uncertain if fans can attend, a team official said on Thursday.

Samir Adly, the team administrative officer, said the Interior Ministry agreed to the Egyptian Football Association’s request to host Mozambique at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on June 1.

Permission was granted on Wednesday, Adly said. However, with little sign of political violence easing in the country, the ministry had not yet decided if supporters would be let in.

“We sent an official letter to the security forces and they said OK we can play the match, but they didn’t say about the supporters,” Adly told The Associated Press. “We are waiting for the last decision for approval.”

Security officials did not indicate their criteria for opening up the game to fans, Adly added.

Egypt hasn’t played an international at home since October, and all domestic football was suspended after 74 people died in a riot at a league game in Port Said on Feb. 1.

Egyptian teams have played in continental club competitions this year but they have been behind closed doors on the orders of the Interior Ministry.

With presidential elections approaching following the revolution that overthrew longtime lead Hosni Mubarak last year, street clashes have continued and at least 11 people were killed this week near the Defense Ministry in Cairo.

Egypt, under American coach Bob Bradley, has played friendlies in Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates in preparation for a busy June schedule of 2014 World Cup and 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Egypt will travel to Guinea a week after the Mozambique match in another World Cup qualifier and then take on Central African Republic home and away in African Cup qualifying.

No decision has been made on the home game against Central African Republic on June 15. The first leg of the tie was put off from February because of the violence in Port Said, where rival fans fought on the pitch in violence linked to politics.

But Zak Abdel Fattah, Egypt’s goalkeeper coach and one of Bradley’s assistants, wants the ministry to relax its no-fan policy.

“We’re hoping that the government changes its mind (and allows) at least five, ten thousand people,” he said. “I’ve been to lots of countries around the world, and I never see fans like Egyptian fans. They cheer with love, they cheer with honor … and for sure we will miss that.”

Egypt, a record seven-time African champion, has suffered in the wake of the turmoil and failed to qualify for this year’s African Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The under-23 team has won a place at the London Olympics, however.

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