World Bulletin/News Desk
Leading Egyptian football club Al-Ahly on Monday evening suspended a striker who flashed the now-famous "Rabaa salute" after scoring a goal in a pivotal African championship match on Sunday.
After scoring in the game's 77th minute, Ahmed Abdel-Zaher flashed the iconic hand-sign commemorating the hundreds of protesters killed during the August 14 dispersal of a sit-in staged by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.
Abdel-Zaher's goal secured the team's 2-0 victory over South Africa's Orlando Pirates and a record eighth African title for Al-Ahly.
The first leg of the final, held in Johannesburg, had ended in a 1-1 draw.
The move by Abdel-Zaher has reignited controversy over the relationship between sports – especially football, which in Egypt is almost a national obsession – and politics.
The Cairo club says it has suspended the player and frozen his salary pending investigation of the incident.
Club spokesman Gamal Gabr said the penalty was merely a "preliminary measure" until the club's board of directors takes a final decision at a planned Tuesday meeting.
In a statement, Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid said the incident "could not go unpunished."
The Egyptian Football Association, meanwhile, has said it plans to "investigate" the player.
Abdel-Zaher told AA that making the gesture did not mean he was a member of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, stressing that he had flashed the sign in memory of the victims of August's sit-in dispersal.
The footballer was not the first Egyptian athlete to raise the controversial sign.
Last month, the Egyptian Kung Fu Federation barred player Mohamed Youssef from contesting the 12th World Wushu Championships in Malaysia.
Youssef had earlier given the Rabaa salute – and worn a bright yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the symbol – while receiving a gold medal at an international championship in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
Days later, another Egyptian kung fu player, Hisham Abdel-Hamid, flashed the Rabaa sign at a training session for the Egyptian national team in Malaysia.
The Kung fu federation, however, has said it would not take any punitive action against Abdel-Hamid since he did not make the gesture during an official game or on the winners' podium.Last Mod: 12 Kasım 2013, 11:57