November 18, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The Egyptian government is dispatching special forces to Sudan to evacuate its soccer fans claiming to be targeted by Algerians in the capital, the Egyptian ambassador to Sudan said today.
- Algeria’s Rafik Saifi (L) help carry an injured Algerian soccer fan after Algeria won their 2010 World Cup qualifying playoff soccer match against Egypt in Khartoum November 18, 2009 (Reuters)
“The Egyptian soccer fans were subjects to assaults from the Algerian fans in Al-Jomhoriya street,” Afifi Abdel-Wahab told the Youth and Sports radio.
The Egyptian envoy said that he is constant contact with the authorities in Sudan while waiting for Special Forces to arrive.
Abdel-Wahab revealed that the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak phoned the Sudanese presidency calling on them “to control the escalating situation”.
Earlier today, the Egyptian information minister Anas Al-Fiqi threatened the move if Sudanese authorities to protect its citizens.
Algeria beat Egypt 1-0 getting the last ticket to the 2010 soccer world cup held in South Africa.
The match was a special situation after Egypt and Algeria equalized in terms of points and goals requiring a decisive match on neutral ground per FIFA rules.
Historically, the soccer matches between the two countries are unique in the animosity surrounding it though analysts have disagreed on the reasons behind it.
In 1989, the Algerian soccer player Lakhdar Belloumi was accused of seriously injuring an Egyptian physician in the eye after throwing a broken bottle in his face.
The incident followed another crucial World Cup qualifying match between the two teams. Belloumi managed to get out on bail and was rushed back home where he has been unable to leave owing to an arrest warrant issued by Interpol which was rescinded only this year.
The Egyptian media today has reported widespread attacks on its soccer fans in Sudan by Algerian fans and Sudanese police alike.
However, the spokesperson of the Sudanese police speaking by phone at the ‘Cairo Today’ show Brigadier Mohamed Abdel Magid denied the reports.
Amr Adeeb, host of the popular show, interrupted Abdel Magid telling him “Sudanese police should not extend its hands on an Egyptian citizen”.
Mamdooh Ali, the Egyptian medical consultant at the embassy in Khartoum told Adeeb that he has seen few cases of minor injuries among the Egyptians suggesting that the reports were exaggerated.
But a number of Egyptian fans and artists calling from Khartoum said they are besiged trying to hide pleading over the phone for help.
Events in Sudan threaten to evolve into a diplomatic row with Egypt after officials in Cairo accused authorities of failing to protect its citizens.
On Tuesday the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir met with both delegations’ management in a bid to defuse tensions.
But at the Sudanese presidential palace the head of Algeria’s football association publicly rejected a peaceful overture from his Egyptian counterpart, walking away from Samir Zahir who proposed to kiss him to put the troubles behind them.
Egyptian and Algerian fans flowed into Sudan with special charter flights to airlift them for the match.
The attendees included officials, ministers, actors and singers from both sides of the aisle including the personal representative of the Algerian president Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika, his brother and the two sons of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Westerners and U.N. staff were urged to stay well away from the stadium as 15,000 extra police kept tight control over 35,000 supporters in Khartoum’s Al Merreikh stadium.
Heavily armed security forces fired tear gas to chase away thousands of Sudanese fans waiting outside, witnesses told Reuters.
The vast majority of Sudanese appeared to rally behind Algerians, a journalistic source in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune adding that authorities informed newspapers that they will be subject to confiscation if they publish pro-Algerian articles.
“Those Egyptians are so arrogant,” Mohamed Naim Suleman, a student from Darfur told New York Times.