'Hooker scandal' hangs over Egyptian team

A Google search for the words "Egypt soccer prostitutes" yields more than 30 000 results. Now that's a PR disaster! After The Sunday Independent and iol.co.za published accusations by police that the Egyptian team had been victims of thieving prostitutes, the story has turned up on everything from allafrica.com to niche blogs such as muslim soccer.wordpress.com

Despite vociferous denials by Egyptian officials, the scandal prompted Egyptian TV talkshow host Amr Adeeb to brand the players "unclean".

His criticism brought howls of protest from the players - and striker Mohamed Aboutrika threatened to retire if his country's football association didn't defend the team's honour. Some of the players made angry calls to Adeeb's show and at one point the coach grabbed the phone and allegedly yelled: "We don't want to play football - to hell with all of you!" then hung up.

According to the English-language Egyptian paper The Daily News, Adeeb later apologised.

The paper also claims South African police have retracted the claims, and quotes captain Ahmed Hassan as saying "We are ready to forget what happened", although several players are apparently still threatening to sue Adeeb.

And as we reported on iol.co.za on Wednesday, soccer supremo Danny Jordaan has also apologised for the furore. So that's that then?

Not quite. South African police have yet to arrest any hotel staff, despite claims by the Egyptians that it was an inside job.

And in the blogosphere, the debate continues. One blog posting on skyscrapercity.com reads: "Allah is punishing them for consorting with prostitutes." But most Egypt fans seem to back their players, repeating the official denials and emphasising the family values and religious observances of their team, saying "our players have families" and "the team pray together five times a day, even waking up at 5am to pray".





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