/ 23 June 2009

Egyptian team wounded by reports of sex workers

The Egyptian national team has hit back at media reports that players who were robbed in their hotel rooms had been entertaining sex workers.

”It is completely out of track … we come from a very religious country and our players are very disciplined and religious,” said Mahmoud Taher, the country’s head of delegations.

Taher was addressing media at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton on Monday.

Weekend newspapers reported that some Egyptian players had celebrated their win against Italy by taking sex workers to their rooms at the Protea Hotel Wanderers.

The sex workers are alleged to have then stolen money and valuables from the players.

But Taher denied the reports, saying there was no way the players could have sneaked women into the hotel as security had been ”very tight”.

”What was published really hurt them at home. We are denying all the allegations completely. There was no chance for anyone to enter the hotel, except for the personnel … even members of our delegation were not allowed into the hotel. No girls, no women, nobody came into the rooms,” he said.

The robbery incident, believed to have happened while the team was busy playing against Italy, has been blamed for the team’s 3-0 loss against the US on Sunday.

”The reports were published before the game and the players had to hear about them from people back home. Due to our culture in Egypt they [players] have been subjected to a very bad image. The reports affected the game, the players,” he said.

Asked why they had kept quiet about the incident, Taher said they had reported the matter to local organising committee (LOC) officials, saying they thought the matter would be ”dealt with as any incident that could have happened in any room”.

CCTV footage at the hotel, Taher said, would absolve the players.

”There are CCTV cameras in the hotels … police know who went into the hotel and when. They said four people went into the rooms and are being investigated,” he said.

He could however not be drawn on why Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula had made an incriminating statement at an earlier media briefing, saying police could not be blamed for incidents where players took people to their hotel rooms.

”If you bring people into the hotel as friends you must bear responsibility to them. So if you invite people who turn out to be security-unfriendly then it is unfortunate because we can’t follow you up until your room,” Mbalula told a media briefing earlier on

Responding to this, Taher said: ”The police commissioner has called our ambassador to say he denies everything that was reported in the media.”

LOC head Danny Jordaan corroborated this, saying he had also personally called police officials who had distanced themselves from the media reports indicating that a police officer had made a statement.

Despite the media reports, Taher maintained Egypt continues to support South Africa and the LOC in their preparations for the Soccer World Cup.

”We’d like to express our sincere thancks to the LOC for the hospitality. The security was excellent and we’d like to wish them the best in their organisation of the World Cup,” he said.

Other than the theft incident involving the Egyptian team, there had been minor incidents of crime linked to the Confederations Cup, Mbalula said.

”Security has been quite intact. There haven’t been any major breaches of security. We haven’t seen any incidents of hooliganism and we are quite happy with the conduct of soccer players,” he said.

Jordaan also cautioned the media from sensationalising incidents of crime surrounding the Confederations Cup, saying criminal incidents had not been different to any other incidents reported during Confederations Cups held in other countries.

”I have been to all Confederation and World Cups since 1994 and the levels of incidents in this cup are no different to other countries.

”The question of theft happens everywhere … it has happened in Germany where fans were robbed,” Jordaan said. – Sapa