CAIRO: The Egyptian national team will inaugurate the first Nile Basin Countries football tournament Wednesday with a match against Tanzania at the Arab Contractors Stadium.
The tournament, comprising seven teams and played under the slogan "No to Terrorism," cancelled its opening ceremony after the attack on Al-Qeddesine Church in Alexandria claimed 23 lives and left tens injured.
Teams were divided into two groups; the first includes Egypt, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania while the second comprises Sudan, Kenya and Congo.
"The tournament is an initiative by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and Hassan Saqr, head of the National Council for Sports, to establish a football federation for Nile Basin Countries but we found that it will be difficult so we decided to organize a tournament instead," said Samir Zaher, head of the EFA.
"We have been intensively communicating with Nile Basin Countries with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and six countries out of nine accepted the invitation," Zaher added.
Ministers of Irrigation and Foreign affairs and chairmen of football federations of the participating countries were invited to attend the tournament and meet with their Egyptian counterparts for discussions.
Special invitations were sent to Ethiopia, Rwanda and Eritrea although their football teams will not participate.
Egypt and Sudan are on one side of a conflict over a water sharing agreement with the remaining seven Nile Basin countries.
Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania signed a new treaty on the equitable sharing of the Nile waters despite strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan, who called on Nile Basin countries to abide by the 1929 and 1959 treaties that gave the two northern countries the lion’s share of the river’s water and veto power over related projects in upstream countries.
The EFA will pay for the expenses of all participating teams including accommodation, transportations and per diem. The winner of the tournament will receive LE 1 million, LE 700,000 for second place and LE 600,000 for third place.
"The primary objective of the tournament is to provide the national team with preparation matches needed for the African Cup qualifications, as well as strengthen bonds with these countries and maintaining good relations with their people," Zaher said.
Matches will be hosted at the Arab Contractors, Police and Military Academy Stadiums; while the final is scheduled to be played on Jan. 17 at the Cairo Stadium.
Fans will be allowed entry for free, Zaher said, to help the tournament succeed.
The tournament is set to be organized annually in Egypt unless another country expresses willingness to host it.
According to Zaher, Egypt is ready to support other countries financially to host the tournament.