Egypt tightens security around match venues, teams’ camps
Egypt is taking unprecedented measures to secure the Africa Cup of Nations, the top football event in Africa, which kicked off on Friday, reports the arabweekly.com.
Tens of thousands of policemen and secret police were deployed in the four cities where matches of the competition are to be played, including in Cairo, which hosts 12 teams, the largest number ever hosted by an African city for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Police vehicles were continually on the move in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Ismailia and the security presence was beefed up at the 16 hotels where the 24 participating teams are staying.
“The security establishment is on maximum alert for the competition,” said Mohamed Nour al-Din, a former Egyptian assistant interior minister. “There is a huge list of points policemen have to secure.”
Sites for police to secure include the stadiums, roads to the venues, hotels and areas near the hotels. Apart from the 24 teams, police also must secure fans attending the matches.
Egyptian officials have said the smallest security hazard can spoil the competition, which is taking place in Egypt for the fifth time. Egypt has won the Africa Cup of Nations seven times since it was first contested 62 years ago. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia participated in the first tournament in 1957.
The competition is viewed as more than just a football event. Cairo, which had been politically far away from Africa for decades, wants to use the competition in getting more involved in the continent.
Cairo also wants to use the competition to attract tourists, especially from African countries that qualified for the tournament. It wants to prove that it is a safe tourist destination.
Stress across Egypt is on making sure the event is organisationally a success, even if the Egyptian team does not win it.
During a visit with the national team June 15, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not ask players to win the competition or score goals but to behave in a way that reflects Egypt’s civilisation, culture and peaceful nature.