With the Egyptian Premier League yet to get underway following the Port Said stadium riot that killed more than 70 people last February, protesters converged on the hotel of visiting Nigerian side Sunshine Stars and managed to delay the second leg of their semifinal against Al Ahly by about half an hour. At the head of the contingent was Egypt captain and former Ahly midfielder Ahmed Hassan (he now plays for Zamalek), and in the midst of the chaos he told reporters the demonstration would turn into a “sit-in” if certain demands weren’t met.
Initially scheduled to kick off mid-September, the Premier League was pushed back a month and then postponed again last week despite promises from the new Egyptian Football Association (EFA) board that play would begin as soon as possible. Hassan, a handful of fellow players and many fans are calling for an immediate start to the campaign, and Sunday’s protest was at least partly intended to force the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to cancel the Champions League semifinal and award the tie to Sunshine Stars.
If Egyptian football was going to be temporarily shelved, the thinking went, Ahly should have had to bear their share of the burden by foregoing their continental campaign.
A few volleys of tear gas from the police eventually dispersed the mob enough for Sunshine Stars to leave the hotel and make their way to the stadium, where they lost 1-0 through a deflected Geddo shot just shy of the half-hour mark. With the win Ahly progressed to the final of the competition, where they’ll face Tunisian champions Esperance over two legs next month.
Meanwhile, a date for the new Egyptian Premier League season has yet to be determined, and more than 70 people are still awaiting trial for their part in the February riot.
CAF Champions League: The other semifinal was settled on Saturday in Tunisia, where Mohamed Ben Mansour’s goal in the 70th minute put Esperance into the final at the expense of 2009 and 2010 winners TP Mazemba, the Congolese champions. The winner of the all-North African tie will go into the quarterfinal stage of the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, where they’ll face either Oceania champions Auckland City or the winner of the Japanese League. Their path to the final will then go through Corinthians, who won the Copa Libertadores in July.
FIFA & ZIFA: Staying in Africa, 15 Zimbabwean players and officials, including former Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya, have received lifetime bans for accepting bribes to fix matches between 2007 and 2009. FIFA has said it requires follow-up regarding the action taken against the guilty parties, and as one of the banned players nevertheless took to the field for his South African club over the weekend it may have its work cut out for it. Current ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube has vowed to “clean up football” in Zimbabwe.
Ugh, Diego: Last Thursday Argentine newspaper Cronica reported that football icon Diego Maradona had ended his eight-year relationship with girlfriend Veronica Ojeda, who is four months pregnant. Maradona is refusing to give the child his last name and the two are currently in dispute over more than £3.5 million, which Maradona earned while in charge of Dubai club Al Wasl.
Photos with Messi: Paraguayan linesman Nicolas Yegros sparked a South American World Cup qualifying controversy last week when he asked Lionel Messi if he might pose for a photograph at halftime of Tuesday’s match between Argentina and Chile.
Messi obliged and, not surprisingly, Chile manager Claudio Borghi was furious, telling reporters after the match that it was astonishing that “a referee takes a picture with a player and I get five matches for something that wasn’t proven.” Borghi, of course, was handed a five-match ban in September for an altercation with Colombian referee Jose Buitrago during a match against Venezuela in June.
Yegros, meanwhile, didn’t see what all the fuss was about, saying after the match (Argentina won 2-1) that his son was a fan of Messi and he had “an opportunity to take a snap-shot.”
“Please don’t be upset for what I did,” he pleaded. “I really don’t know why it is being talked about so much.”
Dynamo threatened: Dynamo Moscow midfielder Alan Gatagov was shot in the back of the head with a paintball during Friday training, and several of his teammates were also hit when a group of camouflaged fans showed up at the club’s ground with paintball guns leaflets that read, “If the club and the coaches can’t motivate you then, believe us, we will do it. We are the supporters and the fans, and our methods will be a little more serious.”
Dynamo, who have never been relegated, are currently 12th in the 16-team Russian Premier League, just eight points off the bottom. The club’s hardcore section of supporters are furious with the poor start to the season—something they blame at least in part on the contingent of foreign players.
In any event, Dynamo must have got the message. Two days after the attack they won 2-1 away to Mordovia Saransk.
Afghan champions crowned: Toofaan Harirod won the inaugural Afghan Premier League on Friday after beating Simorgh Alborz 2-1 in Kabul’s Afghanistan Football Federation stadium. The 2012 APL schedule ran for only a month and included just eight teams in a tournament format, but the competition was well received among fans and sponsors and a 2013 campaign has already been confirmed.
Given the lack of existing football infrastructure in Afghanistan, clubs were quickly formed to represent the various regions of the country and players were selected using a reality television show called Green Field. All 15 matches were broadcast live on the league’s YouTube channel.
Champions Toofaan (which translates as “Storm”) represent the western city of Herat while runners-up Simorgh (“Swans”) are from the Mazar-e-Sharif in the northwest.