x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Black day for Egypt

Whether football hooligans, or far more sinister hands, the perpetrators of Egypt's football disaster have gravely harmed their own country.

The accusation and counteraccusations are already in full swing. Football Ultras, the former regime, the police and the army have all been blamed for Egypt's worst sporting disaster.

On Wednesday, at least 74 people were killed as fans of Al Ahly and Al Masry football clubs clashed in Port Said. In a country already on edge, conspiracy theories are not in short supply.

The security at the stadium was shown to be abysmally inadequate. That rioting fans could get so close to the terrified players was shocking. Worse was the ease of which the rival supporters could get at each other.

But for now, Egypt should stop and mourn the victims.

Once the dead have been buried, investigations should look into how such a catastrophe was allowed to happen. Fifa will no doubt hold their own inquiry, as will the Egyptian Football Association and government.

The findings will be of little comfort to those who lost loved ones. They are also unlikely, in the short term, to improve safety at football matches.

This is larger than sport however. As our columnist Issandr El Amrani argues on the facing page, the violence fits a pattern in a country that is desperate for stability and recovery in the post-Mubarak age.

There will be speculation, baseless and otherwise, in coming days. At present, we can only be sure that Egypt has suffered a terrible day. Conspiracy or not, the perpetrators have gravely harmed their own country.