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Egyptian telecom counts cost of football riot

Police brace for trouble after World Cup grudge match

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Police in North Africa were braced for further trouble on Wednesday night after Algeria secured a 1-0 win to advance to the World-cup finals next year at the expense of arch-rivals Egypt.

The play-off in neutral Karthoom follows sparked by an earlier match between the two. Egypt won the final group qualifying game 2-0 against Algeria in Cairo on Saturday, which left the two teams level on both points and goal scored, forcing Wednesday's game. A series of attacks on Egyptian nationals and firms in Algeria accompanied Saturday's result.

Victims included Egyptian telecoms firm Orascom Telecom Holding. Mobs attacked the headquarters of Djezzy, Orascom's Algerian subsidiary, destroying its factory and 15 of its shops, the FT reports. The destruction of equipment underpinning Djezzy's network threatened services to its 15 million subscribers.

Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian executive chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding, said damages might run towards "tens of millions" of dollars.

The violence kicked off after the Algerian team bus had been attacked with rocks in Cairo, injuring three players, and continued in the wake of the disappointing result.

Football against the enemy

The footballing rivalry between Algeria and Egypt is arguably as intense as that between England and Argentina or The Netherlands (Holland) and Germany.

Recriminations from a game in 1989 that when Egypt controversially beat Algeria by a single disputed goal to progress to Italia 90 continued right up until earlier this year when Interpol finally withdrew an arrest warrant against Algerian player Lakhdar Belloumi, The Guardian explains.

Belloumi - scorer of the winning goal in Algeria's stunning 2-1 upset win over West Germany in the 1982 World Cup - was accused of wielding a bottle that blinded the Egyptian team doctor in one eye during a melee that developed between the two teams at a post-match reception. The player, who has always maintained his innocence and claims he was only accused because of his notoriety, was convicted in his absence and left unable to travel outside Algeria for 20 years. ®

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