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Nov 4, 2013

Ghana want FIFA meeting over playoff

ACCRA, Ghana -- Ghana's sports minister requested an urgent meeting with FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Monday over security plans for the World Cup playoff against Egypt in Cairo, repeating his country's fears for the safety of travelling players.

In the letter, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah said his sports ministry and the Ghana Football Association still had "genuine security concerns" over the Nov. 19 game, which FIFA ruled could go ahead in the troubled capital.

Up to 30,000 fans could attend the game, the first international in Cairo in two years and the first home game involving Egypt where such a large amount of supporters have been allowed in to a stadium since a riot at a club match in Port Said in 2012 led to the deaths of more than 70 people.

Ghana's sports ministry said it had accepted FIFA's decision -- although it wasn't completely happy with it -- but asked for more details on the security guarantees given to FIFA by Egyptian authorities that led the world governing body to allow the game to go ahead. Ankrah also wanted to know who would be responsible for any problems.

"Even though Ghana is ready and willing to play Egypt anywhere, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (would) like to know from FIFA who would be held liable, accountable and responsible in the unfortunate event of any Ghanaian being harmed before, during or after the match," Ankrah wrote.

He said Ghana "wants guarantees on actions that have been put in place by FIFA to contain the emotions of the Egyptian soccer fans in the aftermath of any result."

Ankrah raised concerns that the match could be used by opponents of Egypt's military leadership to express their dissatisfaction, putting Ghanaian players, officials and supporters in danger.

Away from the ongoing deadly political unrest in Cairo, which could escalate with the trial of former president Mohammed Morsi starting on Monday, Ghana leads the playoff 6-1 on aggregate and is likely to qualify for the World Cup ahead of Egypt, possibly adding more fuel to an already volatile situation.

"Prevention is better than regret and the concerns being expressed by Ghana are not farfetched at all," the sports minister wrote in his letter to Valcke, which the ministry said was also sent to the Confederation of African Football, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union and the Egyptian Football Association.

FIFA ruled last week that the game could go ahead after being satisfied with guarantees provided by Egyptian authorities, who will host the game at the military-owned 30 June Stadium, formerly the Air Defense Stadium.

Those authorities said the stadium has been authorized to host its capacity of 30,000 for the game, likely the last for Egypt under American coach Bob Bradley following the embarrassing loss in the first leg in Ghana.

The Confederation of African Football also has allowed Egyptian club Al Ahly to host South Africa's Orlando Pirates in the second leg of their African Champions League final at the same stadium this weekend, a possible trial run for the Egypt-Ghana match. Those teams are tied 1-1 on aggregate in Africa's biggest club tournament.

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