INAS MAZHAR/AIPS in Cairo: The Egyptian Football Association has cancelled the national league competition of the 2011-2012 season.

The decision was taken by the interim board after the February 1 disaster at the Port Said Stadium which left  73 people dead and hundreds injured after a league match between Al Ahly and Al Masry. The competition has been suspended ever since.

A friendly football tournament – the Martyrs’ Cup – will replace the competition and include 18 league teams with the exception of the suspended Al Masry side. The draw for the 18 teams will be held on March 21 and 22 and the tournament will kick off without fans from March 29 through May 18.

The teams will be divided into two groups of 9 each and play a one round league.The top two teams of each group will qualify to the semi final whereas the losers will play off for third place and the winners play for the cup.

The FA Cup  will continue without the international players and Al Masry. The preliminary rounds have already taken place.

One critic of the decision was Farouk Ga’afar, manager of El-Geish. In a TV interview he said: “Why took the decision? People sitting in cafes could make a better decision.

“I demand the resumption of the competition. I think it is really bad for Egypt’s reputation to hold a so-called friendly tournament. Football is a big business and cancelling the competition will cost clubs, players, media and all the people involved in it a lot of money.”

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First published at additional writing Keir Radnedge

AIPS, the Association Internationale De La Presse Sportive, was founded in 1924 and serves sports journalists worldwide

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