Clashes in Cairo ahead of African Champs Lge final
Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian club Al Ahly briefly clashed with police outside a stadium in Cairo ahead of the African Champions League final on Sunday, raising more fears of violence at a World Cup playoff that FIFA has insisted should go ahead in the troubled capital.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd ahead of the second leg of the African club final as fans threw rocks and tried to push their way into the stadium, many with no tickets.
There were already concerns over the World Cup playoff between Egypt and Ghana at a military stadium in Cairo on Nov. 19, the first international game in the violence-hit city in two years. FIFA ruled that game should be played in Cairo despite Ghanaian fears for the safety of their traveling players, officials and fans.
On Sunday, a police car was damaged before Al Ahly was due to host South Africa's Orlando Pirates in the second leg of the club decider. Traffic was also briefly disrupted outside the Arab Contractors stadium in east Cairo during the melee.
The clubs are level 1-1 on aggregate and the deciding leg is the first major match with spectators in Cairo since February 2012, when deadly football violence in the Suez Canal city of Port Said left 74 people dead, mostly Al Ahly fans, the highly political football followers who were involved in protests that ultimately led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Games have largely been played behind closed doors and away from Cairo since the Port Said tragedy.
Following the scuffles outside the stadium, police put up metal bars to organize fans' access to the stands. Fans raised their tickets up in the air and streamed into the stadium that holds around 20,000 people. Clashes restarted briefly, prompting police to lob another round of tear gas.
Deputy Cairo police chief Ezzat Zahran told the private TV station CBC that some fans tried to enter without tickets and tear gas was used to minimize the pushing and shoving outside the stadium.
There were no reports of injuries.
Inside the stadium, the stands were packed. Al Ahly fans sang a song for the fellow supporters who died in the 2012 violence before the match began, and put up a poster remembering them. A few dozen Orlando Pirates fans were also in the stadium.
FIFA said the Nov. 19 World Cup playoff will go ahead at the 30 June military stadium in Cairo after the world body was satisfied with security guarantees given by Egyptian authorities.