TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Police, army patrols and checkpoints will beef up security at Libya’s first home international soccer match in over two years on Friday after FIFA lifted a ban despite violence still plaguing the North African state.
Libya will play the Democratic Republic of Congo in a World Cup qualifier in the capital Tripoli after world soccer’s governing body gave the green light in April for home games following the 2011 war that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
While life has returned to normal since the chaos of the eight month uprising, security remains precarious in a country still awash with weapons left over from the conflict.
Anwar al-Tashani, president of the Libyan Football Federation, told Reuters the body had for the last two weeks been preparing for the game alongside the Interior Ministry.
“There will be (security) forces, two checkpoints in front of the stadium. The conditions required by FIFA will be met,” he told Reuters in an interview on Monday at his office, which is close to the “Tripoli Stadium” where the game will be played.
Mohammed Abu Abdila, spokesman for the head of Tripoli security, said there would be “enough” security forces at the game but did not give a number.
“We have been preparing for the game and we have enough men from all the security forces - police, army, emergency forces - there,” he said. “There will be scanners for weapons and guns.”
Armed violence and lawlessness caused in part by militia groups who often do as they please has hobbled governance in wide areas of the oil-producing country.
Last month, armed groups of former rebel fighters besieged two government ministries for two weeks, demanding the enactment of a law that banned anyone who held a senior post under Gaddafi from government.
Previously Libyan clubs used neutral venues to host their matches while the Libyan national side have played ‘home’ World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifiers in Mali, Egypt and Tunisia since the war.
Libyan club Al Nasr were allowed to host the April 5 African Confederation Cup match against Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces at home in the eastern city of Benghazi, after an inspection by a three-man CAF delegation in March.
The Confederation said in late March it was authorising matches under their jurisdiction to be played in the country.
Tashani said four FIFA officials were due to arrive ahead of Friday’s game to make sure all was running smoothly.
Libya goes into the upcoming qualifiers against DR Congo and Togo - to be played next week - in good spirits after beating Uganda 3-0 in a friendly game in Tripoli last week.
“I think our preparation is going very well. Expectations are very high, we feel this is the first time we are close to qualifying for the World Cup,” Tashani said.
“The two important games are those that will be played here in Libya - against Congo and Togo. We have a big chance. We must win these two matches, if we lose one of them it will be hard.”
Cameroon lead Group I with six points from three games ahead of Libya with five points, DR Congo on four and Togo with one.
Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Mark Meadows