Tunisia’s players hope to wear black armbands in their African Cup of Nations quarterfinal as a sign of respect for the more than 70 people who died at a league game in Egypt this week.
Tunisian Football Federation president Anouar Haddad said on Friday his body had asked for permission from tournament organizers the Confederation of African Football to wear the armbands against Ghana at Stade de Franceville on Sunday.
It was a sign of Tunisia’s “brotherly” ties with Egypt, Haddad said.
Tunisia is the only North African team left at the Cup of Nations after Morocco and Libya were eliminated in the group stage. Egypt, which was the three-time defending champion, didn’t qualify for this year’s tournament.
“I want to say something. For us, Egypt and Tunisia are two brotherly countries,” Haddad said at Tunisia’s team base in Bongoville, near Franceville, in Gabon. “We had the same difficulties but unfortunately what has happened the day before yesterday with the victims, the 74 victims that have died, it is not normal.
“We Tunisians have solidarity with the Egyptian people. We ask CAF to allow us to play with the black armbands against Ghana as a sign of respect for the people who died.”
Haddad said he had not yet received a reply from CAF but expected the request to be considered at a meeting on Saturday. Africa’s football body had already said a minute’s silence would be observed ahead of all four quarterfinals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea this weekend.
More than 70 people died in the clashes on Wednesday in Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Port Said when supporters rushed onto the field soon after a game between home team Al-Masry and Al-Ahly.
It was Egypt’s and one of Africa’s worst incidents of football-related violence.
Tunisia’s players worked out on Friday at a small, neat stadium in Bongoville, the former remote jungle village — now town — that was the birthplace of late Gabon president Omar Bongo and renamed in his honor.
Despite facing Ghana, one of the title favorites, in the last eight in nearby Franceville, Haddad said Tunisia’s “solid team” was capable of reaching the Feb. 12 final. “Why shouldn’t we lift the cup?” he said.
The federation president also dismissed any thoughts of disharmony in the squad after veteran midfielder Adel Chedli left the tournament after not being picked to play.
“It all happened within the confines of the team, there was no incident, no provocation between him (Chedli) and the coach or the technical staff and we took the decision for him to return to Tunisia,” Haddad said.
Tunisia faces Ghana in the last of the African Cup quarterfinals. Before that, it’s Zambia vs. Sudan and Ivory Coast vs. Equatorial Guinea on Saturday while the other co-host, Gabon, plays Mali in Sunday’s first game.