A campaign by soccer clubs and militant fans to unseat the board of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), the country’s governing soccer body, has mushroomed into open revolt.
In a statement after a meeting on Sunday, 52 soccer clubs, including crowned Cairo club Al Zamalek SC, said they no longer trusted the board and were calling an extraordinary general assembly to table a motion of no-confidence.
“With 53 clubs in attendance, 52 of which called for an extraordinary general assembly, the clubs agreed to withdraw their confidence” in the board,” the statement published on Zamalek’s Website said.
Sunday’s meeting was called to ensure that the clubs had a legal quorum after a meeting on Saturday attracted 49 clubs, just short of the number needed.
The EFA in a statement of its own on its Website after Saturday’s gathering charged that the meeting of the clubs was legally not binding because it lacked a quorum.
“There are some clubs are determined to break the law,” the EFA statement said. “We contacted most of the clubs that were named in the meeting and they confirmed that they did not send a representative.”
Sunday’s meeting came on the heels of a letter sent by a number of clubs to world soccer body FIFA asking for assistance in ensuring that they would be able to call for an extraordinary session at which they would could table their motion.
The clubs wrote the letter after the EFA cancelled a scheduled extraordinary general assembly.
The effort to force the resignation of the EFA board follows charges by the clubs and fans that the soccer body’s management and referees are corrupt and demands that officials appointed under the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak be replaced.
The allegations of corruption have prompted fans to repeatedly storm pitches and throw stones during matches in which they disagreed with a referee’s decision.
The Zamalek fans, Ultras White Knights, organized demonstrations in front of the EFA headquarters to demand the board’s resignation.
Zamalek last month accused the EFA of “oppression” and said board decisions constituted “a failure to satisfyingly manage” Egyptian soccer.
Zamalek has demanded a re-play of its match against Premier League club Maqassa after it was defeated earlier this month 1:0 as a result of a decision by a referee the club accuses of corruption. Ismaili also attributed its recent 1:0 loss to Al Jaish to “bad refereeing.”
EFA president Samir Zaher announced last month that he would resign before his contract ends in 18 months’ time, but failed to give a precise date for his departure.
The call for FIFA intervention comes as militant fan groups prepare to meet with groups that organized the mass anti-government protests early this year that forced Mr. Mubarak to step down after 30 years in office. The groups support their demand for the resignation of Mubarak-era soccer officials. The Egyptian Revolutionary Alliance said the meeting would discuss the “revolutionary demands within the sport.”
The militants played a key role in the protests and manned the demonstrators’ front lines in clashes with the police and Mubarak loyalists.
The fans charge that Mubarak-era soccer officials allowed the former president to use the beautiful game in a bid to shore up his tarnished image. Mr. Mubarak employed soccer as a tool to distract attention from unpopular measures and to grab the headlines.
In an angry response to the letter, EFA charged that the letter had damaged Egypt’s reputation.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior researcher at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)