Empty stadium for Warriors

HARARE - Zimbabwe might be forced to play their crucial Wold Cup qualifier against Egypt later this month in an empty stadium as security instability continues to dominate the strife-torn north African nation.

The Egyptian interior ministry have ordered local club Zamalek to move their African Champions League match against DR Congo’s Vita Club from Cairo to Alexandria tomorrow with fans unlikely to be allowed to attend the match due to security concerns.

The Champions League match between Zamelek and Vita Club will now take place tomorrow in Borg El-Arab Stadium in the coastal city, further raising concerns over the Warriors’ match against Egypt in the same city.

"We received a message from the interior ministry saying it would not be able to secure our Caf match in Cairo because of the current security situation," reads a statement on Zamalek's official website.

“Fans are unlikely to be allowed to attend the match due to security concerns.”

It was also reported that Zamalek may, however, contact the military authorities to request a small number of supporters be allowed to attend while Caf threatened earlier to hold the match outside Egypt due to security concerns.

Egypt’s last competitive home match was against the Central African Republic, also in Alexandria, and the minnows shocked the world when they beat the Pharaohs 3-2 in a 2013 Nations Cup qualifier.

Both the 2014 World Cup game against Mozambique and the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against the Central African Republic were played in empty stadiums with the public barred from watching the games.

Security instability has dominated the North African Nation recently, especially since the verdict in the Port Said trial on 9 March. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) headquarters and the Police Club in Cairo were torched by anonymous rioters after the verdict. Investigations into the incidents are on-going.

The local football controlling body, however, is still concerned about sending the Warriors to the North African country and have indicated they are monitoring the situation on daily basis.

“According to what we have been advised by Caf the match will be played in Egypt but we have been concerned about the unrest that characterised Egypt over the past three days,” Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze told Daily News yesterday.

“We engaged our Foreign Affairs Ministry and we are now working with our Embassy in Egypt. They are helping us monitor the situation on daily basis. I think we will be able to have a clear picture by tomorrow,” added Mashingaidze.

Zifa, concerned about the unrest in Egypt, had petitioned to the Confederation of African Football to move this month’s World Cup tie from the volatile country to a neutral venue.

But Zifa was advised that the match, the Warriors’ third tie in their bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, will be staged in Alexandria, the Mediterranean port city that has become the home of the Pharaohs since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

While the Pharaohs have a maximum six points, the Warriors have one, after a home loss to Guinea and an away draw in Mozambique, and need to win in Egypt to turn around their campaign.

The World Cup tie will be the first competitive match for interim coach Klaus Dieter-Pagels, the German who was ushered into the hot seat to stabilise a team that was going off the rails.

Zimbabwe will obviously be going out for maximum points as they seek to put their campaign back on the rails and their match against the North Africans is likely to be a make-or-break encounter for the Warriors.

Pagels has been forced to make changes to his original squad through injuries. Kaizer Chief’s Matthew Rusike has been ruled out through groin injury and he has since been replaced by Ajax Cape Town midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike.

 Supersport United striker Simba Sithole injured his hamstring in their last match against Mamelodi Sundowns which opened doors for Belgium based Ovidy Karuru into the Warriors’ fold having last featured against Mozambique last year.

Pagels has also since included Gilbert Mapemba, Highlanders’ Masimba Mambare and Nicholas Guyo albeit on standby basis. - Godknows Matarutse

Comments (1)

Mr Editor, it is not the Warriors who are being forced to play in an empty stadium but the host team. In fact it will be an advantage to the warriors to play in an empty stadium. Your heading is misleading.

Jerry - 14 March 2013

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