Ghana's sports minister requested an urgent meeting with FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Monday over security plans for the World Cup playoff against Egypt in Cairo, repeating his country's fears for the safety of traveling players and officials.
In a letter to Valcke, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah said his sports ministry and the Ghana Football Association still had "genuine security concerns" over the Nov. 19 game, which FIFA ruled could go ahead in the troubled capital.
Up to 30,000 fans could attend the game, the first international in Cairo in two years and the first home game involving Egypt where such a large amount of people have been allowed into a stadium since a riot at a club match in Port Said in 2012 led to the deaths of more than 70 people — the worst football-related violence in decades.
Ghana's sports ministry said it had accepted FIFA's decision — although it wasn't completely happy with it — but asked for more details on the security guarantees given to FIFA by Egyptian authorities that led the world body to keep the game in Cairo. Ankrah also wanted to know who would be responsible if there were any problems.
"Even though Ghana is ready and willing to play Egypt anywhere, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (would) like to know from FIFA who would be held liable, accountable and responsible in the unfortunate event of any Ghanaian being harmed before, during or after the match," Ankrah wrote.
He said Ghana "wants guarantees on actions that have been put in place by FIFA to contain the emotions of the Egyptian soccer fans in the aftermath of any result."
FIFA said in email correspondence with The Associated Press that it hadn't yet received Ankrah's letter, but repeated its faith in Egypt's security arrangements without going into detail.
"The security guarantees and security plan take into account all the provisions laid down in the FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations," FIFA said.
Ankrah raised concerns that the match could be used by opponents of Egypt's military leadership to express their dissatisfaction, putting Ghanaian players, officials and supporters in danger.
"The Ministry ... strongly feels that since the Ghana contingent will be the guests of the Egyptian (military) government, their opponents may use the match to harm the state and in the process exact collateral damage on whoever is caught up in any crossfire," the sports minister wrote in his letter to Valcke, which the ministry said was also sent to the Confederation of African Football, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union and the Egyptian Football Association.
Away from the ongoing deadly political unrest in Cairo, which could escalate with the trial of former president Mohammed Morsi starting on Monday, Ghana leads the playoff 6-1 on aggregate and is likely to qualify for the World Cup ahead of Egypt, possibly adding more fuel to an already volatile situation. To minimize players' exposure to Egypt's hostile atmosphere, Ghana's squad will camp in Ethiopia for a week and only arrive in Cairo the day before the game.
FIFA ruled last week that the game could go ahead after being satisfied with guarantees provided by Egyptian authorities, who will host the game at the military-owned 30 June Stadium, formerly the Air Defense Stadium. The authorities said the stadium has been authorized to host its capacity of 30,000 for the game, likely the last for Egypt under American coach Bob Bradley following the embarrassing loss in the first leg in Ghana.
The Confederation of African Football also has allowed Egyptian club Al Ahly to host South Africa's Orlando Pirates in the second leg of their African Champions League final at the same stadium this weekend, a possible trial run for the Egypt-Ghana match. Those teams are tied 1-1 on aggregate ahead of the deciding game in Africa's biggest club tournament.
Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP