A flag war: Egyptian football fans waving their national flags as they ride through the streets in Cairo yesterday, on the eve of their national team's key World Cup qualifier against Algeria.
TENS of thousands of Egyptian and Algerian well-wishers will be waving their national flags tonight at Cairo International Stadium to greet their players, who have pledged to work harder to maintain their acquired status on the inter- national football scene.
The 80,000 seats for tonight's World Cup qualifier were snatched up within hours of going on sale on Wednesday, with ticket prices ranging from 3 to 525 dollars.The tri-colour Egyptian flags have started adorning balconies and cars in Cairo and the rest of the country ahead of the game and after the world football governing body FIFA urged Egypt to step up security for the decisive match after stonethrowing fans had been allegedly accused of injuring three Algerian players while they were being bussed to their hotel in Cairo. FIFA statementFIFA announced what action it would be taking against the Egyptian football federation after considering a detailed report on the incident from its represen- tatives on the ground in Cairo.“Following the incidents that occurred in Cairo after the arrival of the official delegation of the Algerian national team, FIFA's Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup has asked the Egyptian Football Association and the highest national authorities through the relevant ministries to provide written guarantees that confirm the implementation of the necessary additional safety and security measures at any time for the Algerian delegation,” the world football governing body said in a statement yesterday.AMinistry of Interior official said that special forces, counter-terrorism squads and plainclothes agents would be deployed in and around the stadium.“Police will search fans entering the stadium. Sharp objects, cans and glass bottles will be banned,” the official said. One FIFA representative, Walter Gagg, confirmed to AFP that three Algerian players had sustained injuries, which may yet rule them out of tonight's game, that will decide which of the North African rivals advances to the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.“We saw that three players had been injured - Khaled Lemmouchia on the head, Rafik Halliche above the eye and Rafik Saifi on the arm,” Gagg said.“These weren't superficial injuries. With the stitches needed, we will have to see if these players can play. The team doctor has still to make a decision on that,” he stressed. Gagg said Algeria's goalkeeping coach had suffered concussion, and described the bus itself as in a "very bad way with broken windows and traces of blood on the floor".