Egyptian players robbed in Johannesburg

June 20th, 2009 - 4:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By Peter Auf der Heyde
Johannesburg, June 20 (DPA) Egyptian players said they had returned from their 1-0 victory over Italy at the Confederations Cup in Johannesburg Thursday to find cash had been stolen from their hotel rooms.

Striker Mohamed Zidan said Friday several players were victims of the thief or thieves. Officials with the team have reported the thefts to police.

It was not immediately clear how much money had been stolen, but the amount is believed to be the equivalent of several thousand dollars.

Also Friday, the South African local organizing committee (LOC) admitted that the transport of spectators to and from the games was still beset with difficulties.

The four host cities for the tournament - Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg and Bloemfontein - have put in place park-and-ride systems to ferry spectators to the stadiums from designated points by coach and minivan.

In Johannesburg, the system has been particularly bumpy. Ticket holders complain of chaotic scenes at the pick-up points and hours-long waits to board buses after games at Ellis Park.

“There were no problems getting into the stadium (during Thursday’s match between Italy and Egypt), but certainly there were challenges as they left the stadium,” Jermaine Craig, spokesman for the World Cup LOC, acknowledged.

Johannesburg was supposed to have a new rapid bus system in place for the Confederations Cup but the all-powerful minibus taxi industry, fearing for its market share, put the brakes on the project. The first phase of the bus-rapid-transit (BRT) is now only due for completion by September.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque, meanwhile, said they were eager to add another victory Saturday against South Africa in a Group A match to hold the record of consecutive wins by themselves.

The European champions currently stand at 14 victories in a row, a number they share with Brazil, France and Australia.

“The streak is important. Of course we don’t want to be thinking about it constantly, but we have the opportunity to go down in history. And some records may be dubious, but this one is based on results and so it cannot be debated,” the coach said.

He said that he might rest a few players as they had already qualified for the next round. “We want to be sure that we don’t weaken our team since we must be ready for a strong opponent.”

South African coach Joel Santana, meanwhile, refused to consider the possibility of his team falling at the group stage of the competition.

“I am not even thinking about it,” said the defiant Brazil-born boss. “I know Spain is the number one team in the world, but I have one group, I have one team and we will play with belief and personality. If we do, we will have a good match.

“I have 100-per-cent confidence in my team.”

The 60-year-old coach, who took over the helm of next year’s World Cup hosts in April 2008 when his compatriot Carlos Alberto Parreira quit, said his side would not be intimidated by the tournament favourites.

“I expect so much from my players,” he said. “Yes it will be a difficult match, but we need to attack and try to go in front.”

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whose side is in danger of missing out on a place in the semi-finals, said that Italian fans should not expect their side to play champagne football.

“If you want to see champagne football, then you should go and watch Brazil or Barcelona,” the Juventus custodian told a press conference at the Italian training ground in Pretoria.

He said that the Italian style of play was about the physical and mental attributes of the players.

“We grind out our victories. We have never played champagne football. That is Brazil and Barcelona’s style - our roots are different,” he said.

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