Ghana says FIFA rules Cairo safe for WCup playoff
FIFA has ruled that Cairo is safe to host the World Cup playoff between Egypt and Ghana next month despite ongoing violence and amid Ghanaian fears for the safety of its traveling players and officials.
FIFA informed Ghana in a letter on Wednesday that the Nov. 19 game would go ahead at the military-owned 30 June Stadium, formerly the Air Defense Stadium, in the Egyptian capital, the Ghana Football Association said.
Allowing the game to be held in Cairo, FIFA said in its letter that ''the current situation in Egypt has turned back to normal,'' according to the GFA's statement.
The GFA said FIFA also cleared Egyptian authorities to allow fans into the game at the 30,000-seat stadium for the first international match in Cairo since 2011, when former president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown to begin two years of political upheaval and often deadly clashes on the streets of the city. The unrest shows no sign of abating.
Ghana had urged FIFA to reconsider Cairo as a host city and asked for the second leg to be moved out of Egypt completely. Responding to Ghana's protests, FIFA gave Egypt until this past Monday to provide additional guarantees that visiting players, officials and fans would be safe and a delegation from the world body also made an inspection visit, according to the GFA.
Now, FIFA ''has received security guarantees from the government of Egypt to protect the Black Stars during their visit,'' the GFA said.
Ghana is likely to win on aggregate and qualify for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil at Egypt's expense after its 6-1 victory in the first leg at home, raising fears of up to 30,000 disgruntled Egyptian fans reacting badly to their team's elimination.
Supporters already have expressed their anger at the embarrassing first-leg loss in Kumasi two weeks ago, leading to extra security at an airport when the Egyptian squad and their American coach Bob Bradley returned from Ghana.
Egyptian football also is still reeling from the clashes at a club game in the Mediterranean city of Port Said in February 2012 when over 70 people were killed in a riot inside that stadium in the worst football-related violence anywhere in decades. Since then, football games in Egypt have generally been played without any fans.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP