The two teams faced each other for the first time in front of fans since a deadly stadium riot that left more than 70 fans dead
Al Ahly defeats Al Masry 1-0 in Al Ain
One of the worst scars in Egyptian football began to heal when rival teams Al Ahly and Al Masry faced each other in front of fans for the first time since a deadly stadium riot that left more than 70 dead in 2012.
The match, which ended with a 1-0 victory for Al Ahly, was held on Friday at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium in Al Ain, where 23,739 Egyptian football fans gathered to watch the Egyptian Super Cup match between the two clubs.
Al Ahly won after a tough game, where both teams failed to score goals in the two halves of the game. Al Ahly scored the first goal during extra time.
It was the first time the two teams had played in front of fans since February 2012, when 74 people were killed in clashes between rival fans following a football match between the top-tier clubs in the Egyptian city of Port Said.
The National spoke with a cross-section of Egyptian fans to gauge their opinions about the future of Egyptian football.
Egyptian Ahmed Jamal, a 33-year-old Al Masry fan, said that although some insults were used at times on Friday night, there was no further trouble.
Mr Jamal, who works as a sales manager in Abu Dhabi, said: “The tragedy which happened in 2012 is attributed to chaos, lack of security following the January 25 revolution, and fans exchanging insults that led fans of both teams to a moment of insanity."
Ihab Saleem, a 30-year-old Al Ahly supporter, said: “I watched the match that took place in Egypt, where dozens of people were killed. Some of the people who were killed in the match that took place in 2012 were my friends and colleagues in the university.”
Mr Saleem, who works in the marketing industry and has been living in the UAE for six years, said that fanaticism in football is common worldwide and that he did not expect any violence on Friday.
“The organisation of the match and security measures are extremely different from those in Egypt. For instance, fans of Al Ahly team are sitting and communicating with Al Masry fans. This will never happen in Egypt. If the same football match took place in Egypt, there would be a chance for fans to get involved in a fight."
Mrs Samira Tahat, 35, a Jordanian mother of three, said she planned to attend the match and thought she could get tickets online, because it wouldn't be crowded.
“I tried to buy tickets on Friday morning, but I couldn’t because the tickets were sold out. My husband and I spoke to some friends and relatives who managed to provide us with some tickets,” she said.
Mrs Tahat, who lives nearby the stadium in Al Ain, said: “We were a bit concerned that some football fans would cause trouble. We hoped they wouldn’t.”
A few days ahead of Friday's match, Abu Dhabi Police called on fans to adopt a civilised manner, cheer positively and to cooperate with police forces.
Police rolled out a large-scale security plan ahead of the match to ensure the public’s safety, mobilising 15 security forces - including anti-riot police, task forces, air ambulance and canine units.
Al Ahly and Al Masry last met in November, when Al Ahly won 2-0. The match was played behind closed doors with no spectators at the stadium, to avoid possible clashes between fans.
Al Ahly qualified for the Super Cup after winning the Egyptian League and Egypt Cup last season, while Al Masry qualified after being the Egypt Cup runner-up.
The organising committee of the Egyptian Super Cup decided the final match was to be held in the UAE, instead of Egypt, to avoid any possible violence.
Since 2012, Egypt's Premier League championship had been split into two groups to ensure Ahly and Masry never played against each other, except in a final. But in 2015, the league reverted to a single group, bringing the two teams face-to-face once again.
Egyptian Ahmed Metwali, a 30-year-old Al Ahly fan, said: “I was looking forward to watching a good match being played in good faith. We do not to want see scenarios similar to what happened in Port Said six years.”
He expressed hope that Egyptian football would recover and the ban of spectators would be lifted.
Hamdi Imam, 25, an Al Masry fan, was happy that the game was well organised.
“The horrors of the Port Said match are seared into the collective consciousness of Egyptian football fans. But we want to turn a new page in the history of Egyptian football.”