Egyptian soccer team punishes player over Mursi gesture

CAIRO Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:03am IST

Ahmed Abdelzaher (R) of Egypt's Al-Ahli and Siyabonga Sangweni of South Africa's Orlando Pirates jump for a header during their African Champions League final soccer match at the Arab Contractors Stadium in Cairo, November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Ahmed Abdelzaher (R) of Egypt's Al-Ahli and Siyabonga Sangweni of South Africa's Orlando Pirates jump for a header during their African Champions League final soccer match at the Arab Contractors Stadium in Cairo, November 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A top Egyptian football club said on Tuesday it would suspend one of its players and offer him for sale after he made a hand gesture seen as supportive of deposed president Mohamed Mursi.

Ahmed Abdelzaher will also be "prevented from representing the club and will not get any bonuses", the club Al Ahli said in a statement on its website putting the player up for sale.

After scoring a goal on Sunday in the African Champions League final match, Abdelzaher displayed the four-finger gesture symbolising the security forces' August 14 raid that killed hundreds of Mursi supporters camped out at a Cairo sit-in. Abdelzaher has said he was showing sympathy for those killed.

Egypt's army overthrew Mursi on July 3 after mass protests against his rule and installed an interim government.

It has since launched a security crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, arresting more than 2,000 supporters, as well as Mursi and other senior leaders. Security forces have killed hundreds of Mursi supporters.

He is not the first sportsman to have fallen foul of politics since Mursi's overthrow. Last month, the family of an Egyptian kung fu champion said he had been banned from representing the country after he showed support for Mursi by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the four-fingered symbol.

"The Ahli Club administration refuses to mix sport with politics and has decided to suspend the player by not allowing him to represent the club in the world clubs cup in Morocco next month," it said in the statement, referring to the Fifa Club World Cup.

"Abdelzaher confessed he made a mistake and said that he was ready to take any penalty," the statement added.

Mohamed Sheiha, Abdelzaher's agent, said the player had four years on his contract with Al Ahli. "He will complete them," he said. "This decision is unfair. Ahmed is shocked," he said in televised comments.

Abdelzaher scored the second goal in Sunday's match which ended 2-0 for Ahli.

Many Egyptians turned against the Brotherhood after Mursi's troubled year in office. Support for the man who overthrew him, army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has grown.

(Reporting by Osama Khairy, writing by Michael Georgy and Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Tom Perry and Alison Williams)

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