The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has asked FIFA to switch the venue for their World Cup playoff return-leg in Egypt to a safer neutral venue due to the current social and political unrest in the North African country.
In a letter to the world governing body, the GFA expressed its worry over the growing violence in Egypt as the capital Cairo has been penciled as the venue for the return leg clash on 19 November.
The GFA is concerned that FIFA has reportedly approved Cairo as the venue for the return leg to be played in front of spectators when the military has prevented fans from watching matches in their stadia over the past two years because of the turmoil and social unrest in the country.
The GFA revealed FIFA has still not confirmed the venue for the return match even though deadline for the submission of the venues for the ten playoff matches for Africa has elapsed.
Violent clashes between security forces and protesters of the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood has left more than 60 people dead in the past 48 hours which has sparked concerns among the Ghana players and their officials.
“The Ghana Football Association (GFA) wishes to kindly request FIFA to move the venue for the 2014 World Cup Qualifying second-leg, play-off between Egypt and Ghana on 19th November, 2013 from Egypt to a safe and secure venue,” the GFA letter to FIFA read.
“Our request is premised on the alarming and fast deteriorating security situation in Egypt. Since the date, kick-off and venue for the second-leg match were set, no official information has been received by the GFA from the Egypt Football Association of FIFA contrary to article 19 (2) of the Regulations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil.
“Unfortunately, we have learnt about the date, kick-off and venue for the second leg match between Egypt and Ghana from the media. We are still waiting to receive the said information as per the relevant Regulations and the letter dated September 16, 2013 signed by Mr. Gordon Savic, Head of FIFA World Cup & Olympic Qualifiers to the ten countries participating in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-offs for Africa.”
The GFA said countries with similar social unrest problems were asked to play their qualifying matches at safer venues insisting FIFA must not put the lives of players and officials at risk by playing in Cairo.
“The GFA is gravely concerned that for the past two years Egyptian authorities have only allowed football matches to be played without spectators yet Ghana has reportedly been asked to play Egypt in Cairo before fans. It is noteworthy that Egypt played all their home qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Guinea in Egypt without spectators.
“Local clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek played their recent CAF Champions League matches behind closed doors as the security authorities refused the supporters access to the games because of the current turmoil in Egypt.
“Just two weeks ago a fan of a local club Zamalek was killed following clashes between ultras and security forces outside the club’s headquarters.
“Since then the violence in Egypt has escalated leaving the GFA and some of the Black Stars players to express their grave concern over their safety for the match scheduled for Cairo in November, 2013.
“We are seriously concerned about the security and safety of our delegation and spectators if the match would be played in Egypt as events in the country pointedly indicate that our delegation could be exposed to danger as the violence and insecurity in the country continues relentlessly.”
The GFA says it sympathizes with the current predicament of the Egyptian FA but Ghana is not willing to compromise on the security of its players and officials.
“Much as we sympathize with our brothers at the Egyptian Football Association, we are highly concerned about the security and safety of our players, officials and supporters and would like FIFA to take the necessary steps to protect lives and from both Ghana and Egypt during the second-leg game.
“The GFA is asking FIFA to re-evaluate the decision to host the World Cup playoff in Egypt in November as the safety of our delegation would be as risk if the match is played in Cairo.
“Consequently, we hereby kindly request that in consonance with FIFA’s tradition in similar circumstances, the match be moved to a neutral venue to forestall the potential but avoidable threat to life and property.”