Trabelsi: Black armbands 'least' we can do

GERALD IMRAY AP Sports Writer Published:

FRANCEVILLE, Gabon (AP) -- Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi said on Saturday that wearing black armbands in its African Cup of Nations quarterfinal was "the least" his team could do for the more than 70 people killed at a football game in Egypt this week.

However, it was still unclear if tournament organizer, the Confederation of African Football, would allow the Tunisians to wear the armbands against Ghana at Stade de Franceville on Sunday.

CAF had already approved a similar request from opponent Ghana to wear black armbands in honor of midfielder Anthony Annan's mother, who died on Thursday.

But after meeting in Gabon's capital Libreville on Saturday, the African football body had still not announced a decision on Tunisia's request, which could be seen to have a political message after the deaths in the violent clashes following a league game caused civil unrest in Egypt.

World football body FIFA does not allow players or teams to make political statements in football matches.

One CAF official declined to comment to The Associated Press, while another said he was still to be informed of any decision.

It had already been decided by CAF that all four quarterfinals would be preceded by a minute's silence in honor of the victims of the violence in Port Said, but Tunisia's football federation had also sought permission to wear the armbands as a mark of respect because of what it called its "brotherly" ties with fellow north African country Egypt.

On Saturday, Trabelsi said his squad had been "moved" by the tragedy in the Mediterranean port city and wanted to wear the armbands.

"We are very moved, on the level of the federation, on the level of the country. It was a sporting tragedy and I think all sports people are very moved by what happened in Egypt," Trabelsi said. "We are with them and we are sad for them.

"I think it (wearing the armbands) is the least we can do for a brotherly people. Our two countries and people have a very long and good relationship."

Defender Anis Boussaidi said that the Tunisian players would be disappointed if the request was turned down by CAF -- which appeared likely late on Saturday -- but they would accept it.

"We have no choice (but to accept the decision)," Boussaidi said. "But it is good just that we are trying."

The Ghana Football Association had already announced its players were cleared to wear armbands in Sunday's game in Franceville to honor the memory of Annan's mother, Madam Sophia Sampson.

Annan has stayed with the Ghana squad in Gabon and is expected to start in the quarterfinal after lining up for all three of Ghana's games so far at the African Cup.

"We want to be sure that we go into the game like wounded lions and win this game for him (Annan) and for the whole of Ghana," captain John Mensah said on the eve of Sunday's quarterfinal. "We want to win this game for Anthony Annan, our brother who lost his mother."