Egypt ready for Africa Cup despite security, price concerns

Cairo, Tuesday @PeopleSports11

The Africa Cup of Nations is set to kick off in Egypt on Friday against a backdrop of terror attacks and only days after the death of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

With opening and closing games held at Cairo Stadium, it will be the fifth time that Egypt has hosted the regional tournament, which has expanded this year to include 24 teams.

Cairo last welcomed African teams in 2006, before the country’s political landscape was rocked by the Arab Spring of 2011.

This time, Egypt plays host after Morsi, its first democratically elected president, was buried on Tuesday following the ousted and jailed leader’s collapse in court and death the previous day.

Authorities are confident the infrastructure is in place to host the continent’s largest football contest, but they are on high alert after attacks on tourists near the pyramids and an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

A roadside bomb near the pyramids last month left 17 people wounded, just months after a similar attack in December killed three Vietnamese holidaymakers and an Egyptian tour guide.

Extra security

The interior ministry in June announced extra security forces would be deployed to maintain “public order” for the competition.

Egyptians were expected to be a major driver of the tournament’s reach, but local fans have been up in arms over the cost of watching a game either in stadiums or on television.

Set to run well into the scorching month of July, it will mark the first time Egypt has hosted a major sports tournament since longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak was ousted by mass protests in 2011.

In the wake of the 2013 military overthrow of his successor Morsi led by now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has seen a surge in terror attacks targeting its Christian minority and security forces.

In February last year, Egypt launched a military offensive against militants in the Sinai Peninsula it says are linked to the Islamic State group.     -AFP