“A war of words erupted between the Egyptian football team and authorities in South Africa Sunday over the circumstances in which members of the Egyptian team were robbed, following their Confederations Cup win over Italy.
On Friday, members of the Egyptian announced they had been returned to their hotel rooms after their historic 1-0 win over Italy at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to find thieves had made off with 2,400 dollars of their cash.
The incident made international headlines, amid persistent concerns over high crime rates in South Africa in the run-up to the World Cup next year.
But two South African Sunday newspapers gave a different version of events. The Sunday Independent and City Press both quoted police sources as alleging that the players had fallen foul of light-fingered female consorts at an impromptu victory party.
“We have reason to believe that they brought the women onto the premises and were celebrating with them before they were robbed of their money,” the Independent quoted a senior policeman as saying.
The newspapers also questioned why the robbery had only been reported to police several hours after the incident.
City Press said sources in the police, at the hotel and the World Cup local organising committee (LOC) had also said there was no sign of forced entry into the players’ rooms, nor any sign they had been burgled.
LOC spokesman Rich Mkhondo told the Independent the matter was becoming “murky.”
The chairman of the Egyptian football federation reacted angrily to the allegations that the players had been “caught with their pants down,” as the Independent’s headline put it.
“I think that they (newspaper’s sources) said that to divert attention from the main issue, which is security, by creating a scandal for the Egyptian team,” Samir Zahir told the German Press Agency dpa.”