The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has urged Zamalek fans not to cause any trouble when they attend Saturday’s African Champions League game against Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea in Cairo.
The match, which is somewhat meaningless for Zamalek after the team lost any hope of reaching the competition’s semifinals, will nevertheless mark the lifting of a crowd ban enforced by Egyptian authorities since February’s Port Said disaster.
Pundits suggest it will be crucial to determine whether fans will be allowed back to the stands on a permanent basis, only weeks before the new Egyptian Premier League kicks off.
Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel were recently kicked out of the Champions League by African football governing body CAF after their fans rioted during a Group A game against compatriots Esperance in Sousse.
“We rely on Zamalek fans to display sportsmanship and send a message to the world that Egypt is safe. That match will also pave the way for the resumption of domestic football ahead of the league’s launch on 17 September,” EFA spokesman Azmy Megahed said.
“Fans should be careful to prevent Zamalek from being sanctioned like Etoile Sahel,” he added. “The fact that Zamalek are already out will count for nothing; for instance, they can be banned from playing in next season’s Champions League.”
Zamalek fans made headlines for all the wrong reasons when they invaded the pitch during a Champions League preliminary-round game in April of last year in the first episode of crowd trouble since Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising.
The club are enduring a disastrous run in Africa’s elite club competition, having lost four consecutive games in Group B.