Egypt’s national soccer league will resume next month, a year after more than 70 fans were killed in clashes following a game in Port Said.
The Egyptian Premier League will start a new season on Feb. 2, the country’s soccer governing body said on its website following a meeting between the sports and interior ministers. The first round of games will be played without spectators.
The competition will be divided into two pools, with the winners and runners-up of each qualifying for the semifinals, the Egyptian Football Association said yesterday. It’s the first time it’s used the format since 1976.
Soccer matches in the country were suspended indefinitely when Al-Masry fans attacked visiting supporters from Cairo-based Al-Ahly last February, a year after a mass uprising forced former President Hosni Mubarak from office. Weapons in the soccer violence included knives, swords, clubs, stones, bottles, and fireworks.
The resumption of the league “will be an indicator of Egypt’s stable security situation,” the EFA said.
The decision by the interior ministry to give the go-ahead for the league to restart comes after it rejected three previous attempts from Egyptian soccer authorities to resume games in a country where it's the most popular sport.
Fans of Al-Ahly, one of Africa’s best-known teams, had called for the league to remain on hold until a court investigating the Port Said incident issues a verdict, Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
“The EFA and the clubs’ managements should reach out to fans in order to avoid unrest inside and outside the stadiums,” the soccer body said.