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Oct 16, 2012

Egyptian football league restart delayed

The restart of the Egyptian football league, scheduled for Wednesday, has been delayed indefinitely because the government has not provided security clearance.

Games cannot be played without guarantees of safety and, after Ultras supporters of Al-Ahly threatened more disruption if the league resumed before the completion of the trial resulting from the Port Said Stadium deaths, the ministry of the interior declined to give the FA the necessary authorisation.

In total, 74 people were killed during a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry on February 1 when clashes and a pitch invasion broke out. Witnesses claimed police did little to stop the violence.

The league was suspended after the incident, and the scheduled September 17 resumption was put back a month after Al-Ahly fans stormed the Egyptian FA's headquarters to protest against the decision.

An FA official told Egypt's Ahram Online that the FA's newly-elected board "had decided to take the side of martyrs and injured families and to support the Ultras in their demand to freeze the league competition until the Port Said case ends".

Defendants in the case include nine police officers and three Masry officials who face a range of charges, from murder to assisting the attackers. The trial began in April after 16 people had died in Cairo protests sparked by the stadium deaths.

The lack of competitive football will have a significant effect on the national team, most of whom will now be without match practice as they try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

However, coach Bob Bradley said: "Despite the recent difficulties, I am sticking with my job - especially as the players are committed and enthusiastic and they really are getting better.

"If the Egyptian league doesn't return it will not be good for us, but I have other solutions for that problem. We will depend on long-term camps and we will try to arrange a sufficient number of friendly matches."

Egypt beat Congo 3-0 in the UAE on Friday and will play Tunisia on Tuesday. They are top of their World Cup qualification group, having won both their matches so far.

Their next fixture is not until March, when they take on Zimbabwe at home.

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