Egypt footballer suspended over Morsi sign

Ahmed Abdul Zaher makes a four-finger gesture. Photo: 10 November 2013 Ahmed Abdul Zaher reportedly said he did not mean any "political excitement"

One of Egypt's top football clubs has excluded its striker from a competition for publicly showing support for ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Al Ahly said Ahmed Abdul Zaher would not go to next month's Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco after he gave a four-fingered salute on Sunday.

The striker was celebrating his goal in the final of the African Champions League, which Al Ahly won 2-0.

The gesture has become a symbol of solidarity with Mr Morsi.

It commemorates a Cairo sit-in by supporters of the Islamist president which was violently dispersed by the security forces in August, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people.

Mr Morsi - Egypt's first democratically elected president - is currently on trial on charges of inciting the killing of protesters during clashes in the capital last year. He was ousted in July.

'Grave insult'

Abdul Zaher celebrated with the four-finger gesture (Rabaa) after scoring the second goal in Al Ahly's 2-0 win over South Africa's Orlando Pirates.

"Yes, I raised the sign of Rabaa," he was quoted as saying by Egypt's football website FilGoal.

"But I didn't mean political excitement to any one side or fan. All I meant to do was to remember the dead, whether in Rabaa, any other citizen and even policemen.''

On Monday, Al Ahly officials said he would be excluded from the squad for the Morocco competition.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid said the player's "grave insult" could not go unpunished.

The minister said he was confident that both the club and the Egyptian Football Association would take action.

Abdul Zaher is the second leading Egyptian sportsman to be penalised for publicly backing Mr Morsi, the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo reports.

Last month, champion kung fu fighter Mohammed Youssef was banned from competing at home and abroad for two years after using the same gesture at a medal ceremony.

The move added to growing concerns about freedom of speech under Egypt's new military-backed government.

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