South Africa ‘concerns’ after Manchester attack

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South Africa
A woman walks past an electronic advertising board displaying a Union flag and the words "Pray For Manchester". — AFP

LONDON: South Africa’s team manager said his side had “genuine concerns” about remaining in England following the deadly terror attack in Manchester, but there are no immediate plans to return home.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack at the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena on Monday that killed 22 people, including children.

Britain’s deadliest terror attack for 12 years took place just two days before the start of a three-match one-day series between England and South Africa in the nearby city of Leeds.

It is the first international fixture of a lengthy, three-month tour for South Africa that includes the June Champions Trophy and subsequent four-Test series against England.

No major international cricket has taken place in Pakistan since 2009 because of security concerns following an attack, while England one-day captain Eoin Morgan and opening batsman Alex Hales refused to tour Bangladesh because of safety fears.

But having received security briefings from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), whose security advisor Reg Dickason is well-respected throughout the sport, South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said his side were happy to remain in England as things stood.

“As you can understand we have some genuine concerns, the players are uneasy… there was a lot of chatter at the breakfast table,” Moosajee told reporters at Leeds’s Headingley ground on Tuesday.

“I am happy to say we’ve had constant communications from the ECB and their security manager.

“There have been guarantees put in place that security arrangements will be supplemented, starting today. We’re told there will be more visible police at the stadium, at practice sessions as well as the hotels we will reside at.”

Moosajee said the hotel the South Africans are booked in for in Manchester for the last Test “is literally walking distance from where events unfolded last night and there has been genuine concern.

“The process has started to make the players reassured that arrangements are in place to keep them safe.”

While players had briefly talked about leaving England, Moosajee stressed: “As things stand there’s no mention of us even thinking of abandoning the tour. If the intelligence information tells us something else we would obviously have to reconsider.”

Champions Trophy tournament director Steve Elworthy was not anticipating any withdrawals.

“We’re planning for all eight teams to be here,” Elworthy said.

“It’s critical and paramount that we deliver a safe, impressive and exciting tournament for everybody involved.”

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