Clubs demand FIFA intervention in effort to force resignation of Egyptian soccer body board
Tension between the embattled management of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), the country’s soccer clubs and militant fans mounted as clubs turned to world soccer body FIFA to ensure that they can table a motion of no confidence in EFA president Samir Zaher and his board.
The clubs requested FIFA’s intervention in a letter to the world body after the EFA cancelled a scheduled extraordinary general assembly at which they had intended to table the motion. The clubs have called for a rescheduling of the assembly.
“We request FIFA to delegate an observer and enforce decisions taken” at the assembly, the clubs said. “We also request you to approve that a vote of no-confidence in the board of directors is part of the agenda and that the casting of ballots is secret.”
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.
The letter was signed by crowned Cairo club Al Zamalek SC as well as second and third tier clubs Al-Nasr, Tanta, Al-Wasta, El-Badrashein, El-Sinbellawein and Bella. Premier League team Ismailia SC said it may join the demand for FIFA intervention.
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.”
Mr. 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.
The clubs say they have the required majority of 50 percent plus one needed to call for an extraordinary general assembly in accordance with article 28, paragraph 2 of FIFA’s regulations.
FIFA could not be reached for comment.
In an angry response to the letter, EFA charged that the letter had damaged Egypt’s reputation.
“The EFA firmly condemned this letter because it negatively affects Egypt’s reputation, economy and tourism,” the soccer body said in a statement published on its Website.
In a letter of its own to FIFA, the EFA said it would “reveal all the truth.” The letter rejected assertions that the EFA had failed to tackle “the unsettled situation and financial crisis after the 25 January revolution.”
Many Egyptian clubs are financially troubled as a result of a three month suspension of all Egyptian soccer matches a day before the January 25 protests erupted. The suspension was intended ensure that soccer pitches did not become an opposition rallying point.
(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: [email protected])