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Al-Ahly suspend star over Islamist sign

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AHMED-ZAHERCAIRO, Egypt, November 12 – Egypt’s Al-Ahly football club on Monday suspended a player for a goal celebration that appeared to sympathise with Islamists targeted in a crackdown by army-installed authorities, sources said.

Al-Ahly’s board is set to approve the decision to fine and suspend Ahmed Abdul Zaher from next month’s FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, the club sources said.

The 28-year-old forward held up four fingers after scoring the second goal as Al-Ahly defeated Orlando Pirates of South Africa in the final of the African Champions League on Sunday.

“I did it, but it was not my intention to provoke a political controversy. My only aim was to honour the martyrs, both the citizens and the police,” Abdul Zaher was quoted as saying by local sports website filgoal.com.

Islamists have often flashed the four-finger sign, called Rabaa (four) in Arabic, at anti-military protests since a deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square on August 14.

Hundreds of people were killed in clashes when security forces stormed Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares in the Egyptian capital to disperse sit-ins by Morsi supporters who rejected his ouster by the army in July.

On Sunday Al-Ahly won an eighth African Champions League trophy when they beat the Pirates 2-0 in the second leg of the final in Cairo.

A senior member of the club told AFP on condition of anonymity that the move to suspend Abdul Zaher was being taken because “he mixed politics with sport.”

Egypt’s minister of state for sport, Taher Abu Zeid, said in a statement that he “expects” the nation’s football federation to “suspend and fine Abdul Zaher the way Kung Fu fighter Mohamed Youssef was.”

“The ministry itself cannot take such decisions but the concerned institutions can.”

Egypt’s Kung Fu Association banned Youssef from international championships for two years after he wore a T-shirt bearing the four-finger sign last month at a tournament in Russia.

Sources said meanwhile that Al-Ahly star Mohamed Aboutrika, also a known Islamist sympathiser, missed the medal ceremony after Sunday’s match.

They said he had been searching in his locker for a T-shirt with number 72 on it, representing the number of people killed in clashes in the February 2012 stadium riot in Port Said.

The riot erupted when fans of Al-Masry Club of Port Said clashed with Al-Ahly supporters.

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