Hani Abu Reida speaks during a press conference in the capital Cairo yesterday after the return of the team from Russia. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) on Wednesday apologised for Egypt’s early exit from the World Cup in Russia after a streak of losses.

In their first World Cup campaign in 28 years, the Pharaohs were beaten by Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia and finished at the bottom of the Group A with no points.

“I can do nothing but offer an apology to the Egyptian people for the national squad’s performance at the World Cup and their bad results,” the EFA head Hani Abu Reida said at a news conference in Cairo.

“The performance was very bad. For sure, everyone interested in football is sad about the standard presented at the World Cup especially in games against Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

Abu Reida, however, ruled out that his elected board will step down in response to calls from the angry people and the media.

“Presenting resignation is out of the question. We are ready to deal with all oversight agencies,” he said.

Over the past few days, the Egyptian media reported alleged financial irregularities by the Egyptian football delegation in Russia and chaos at the hotel where the Egyptian players stayed in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Egyptian fans and celebrities reportedly had access to the hotel, distracting the players from preparing well for the tournament.

Some members of the Egyptian parliament have demanded an ad hoc committee be formed to investigate the purported irregularities.

A lawyer in the coastal city of Alexandria, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit, accusing the EFA of wasting public money.

Abu Reida on Wednesday dismissed the reports as mere rumours. “The financial and administrative reports about the mission in Russia are ready.”

He described the good organisation at the team’s hotel in Grozny. “There was no chaos as reported,” Abu Reida said. “I myself could not go to the hotel floor where the team stayed.”

Abu Reida also denied claims that Grozny was used as the team’s base for political reasons.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was seen on several occasions with Egypt’s star Mohammad Salah and bestowed on him honorary citizenship. The West accuses Kadyrov of human rights abuses, which the Chechen leader has denied.

“Grozny was ideal for the team in terms of stay or training. We have nothing to do with Chechyna’s political issues,” Abu Reida said.

The Pharaohs’ early exit from the World Cup unleashed outrage in Egypt and prompted the sacking of the coaching staff led by Argentine Hector Cuper.

Abu Reida on Wednesday defended Cuper’s track record. “His contract ended with the end [of Egypt’s campaign] at the World Cup. We thanked him for all his achievements. He was the reason for making the Egyptian people happy by reaching the World Cup.”

In 2015, Cuper took the Pharaohs’ helm and guided them to reach the Africa Cup of Nations two years later after they had missed the continental competition for three consecutive editions.