Egypt’s Al Ahly and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad are involved in a row over unregistered players ahead of their opening match Sunday at the FIFA Club World Championship.
Ittihad coach Anghel Iordanescu on Thursday hit back at Ahly accusations that his squad includes three unregistered players.
“FIFA are here — they can judge. It’s not my role to judge. We registered the players and they have a contract with us,” Iordanescu said.
“It’s a psychological ploy. Al Ahly are trying to disturb us.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Al Ahly’s vice president Mahmoud El-Khatib claimed Ittihad was flouting rules regarding player registration.
“Al Ahly club always protects the rules of FIFA. But just a few days before the competition starts, some of the other teams have registered some of the players after the limit of registration,” El-Khatib said, referring to Al Ittihad.
“I don’t want to talk bad about anyone, but I wish FIFA could take action toward this sort of thing.
“These players, they were playing last month, on the 12th and 13th, with their original clubs,” he said.
The players are believed to be among the four Brazilians in the Ittihad squad.
The war of words will add extra spice to the Arabian derby at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Sunday.
That day’s winner will play South American champion Sao Paulo in the last four of the six-team tournament.
Oceania champion Sydney FC and Central American champion Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica contest the other quarterfinal in Toyota, Aichi Pref., on Monday, with the winner facing European champion Liverpool in the semifinals.
Ittihad is Asia’s powerhouse at club level, having won the regional Champions League the last two years. In Ahly, though, it faces a team undefeated in all competitions for 55 matches — a world record.
Iordanescu is sure his players are ready for the challenge.
“Our team has dominated Saudi football and Asian football,” he said. “I know my players and their character. They will pass the test.
“This is a chance for our players to show how big a development our players have made,” Iordanescu said.
“We want to show people we deserve to be here.”
Captain Mohammed Noor left reporters in no doubt as to the players’ ambitions.
“We want to bring home the championship cup with us,” he said.
Bankrolled by oil-rich sheiks, Ittihad has enticed world-renowned stars such as ex-Inter Milan striker Mohammed Kallon and Cameroon’s Joseph-Desire Job.
Last month, the Jeddah-based side was unsuccessful in its attempts to sign former Manchester United captain Roy Keane and Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o in mega-money loan deals similar to Sydney FC’s short-term signing of Japan’s Kazuyoshi Miura for the Club World Championship.
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