FIFA will take steps to reinstate Egypt’s Football Association (EFA), suspended by Cairo after 74 people died in violence at a match in Port Said, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said on Sunday.
Blatter, attending an extraordinary congress of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) at its Paraguay headquarters, said the EFA’s suspension after Wednesday’s violence was a direct intervention into soccer affairs which FIFA could not accept.
“The information we have received at FIFA confirms the number of dead as 74. It was also confirmed that the (Egyptian) government intervened directly by suspending the football association,” Blatter told a news conference.
“We are going to take up the case from tomorrow (Monday) so that this association is reinstated because it is the (body) that has the responsibility to organize the competitions and it must carry on (its work),” the president of world soccer’s governing body said.
The incident, when fans invaded the pitch in Port Said after home team al-Masry beat Cairo giants al-Ahli, was Egypt’s worst soccer disaster and Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri sacked the EFA board.
It was also the incident with the highest number of victims in Egypt since an uprising brought down the government of Hosni Mubarak early last year.
Most of the deaths were among people trampled in the crush of the panicking crowd. Demonstrators who staged anti-government protests after the incident blamed the country’s military authorities.
“FIFA’s number one objective is to protect football, protect the association and naturally ensure these situations are not repeated,” Blatter said.
“But we also need a police (force) or army because in football we don’t have the power to intervene directly.”
The Conmebol congress attended by Blatter decided to modify its statutes to reduce the intervention of regional governments in football affairs.
Its president, Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, recalled the case in 2008 when FIFA suspended Peru from all football after the Peruvian government declared the re-election of the country’s football federation president Manuel Burga illegal because of allegations of corruption.
“We have had problems in some South American countries because some governments have become involved in issues that are exclusively for the sporting authorities. The new statute follows clear FIFA laws on this matter,” Leoz said.
Blatter also said he was confident Brazil would be ready on time to stage the 2014 World cup finals.
“One matter we have (pending) is to obtain all the guarantees from the political authorities. We still lack some guarantees but at the end of March we will have everything and I’m sure Brazil will organize a great World Cup,” he said.