x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Start of Egypt football season delayed again

Security fears persist eight months after stadium violence in Port Said.

Seventy people were killed at a Port Said stadium in February. Ahmed Hassan / AP Photo
Seventy people were killed at a Port Said stadium in February. Ahmed Hassan / AP Photo

CAIRO // Egypt's football association has delayed the start of its season for a second time after security authorities refused to allow the commencement of games, the association said on its website.

Football in Egypt is still reeling from a stadium riot in February in which 70 people were killed.

The association postponed the season, scheduled to start on October 17 after a one month delay, because "the necessary security authorisation is absent", it said. Fans of Cairo's Al Ahly club, whose members died in the violence, had stormed the association's headquarters last month to protest a decision to resume the games.

The National reported last week that Ultras Ahlawy, the hard-core supporters group of Al Ahly, had been joined in their opposition to restarting the league by at least four other Ultras groups – the Red Devils, an Alexandria-based Ahly supporters' group; Zamalek's White Knights; Ismaily's Yellow Dragons and Ittihad's Green Magic.

They had threatened action to prevent the start of the league. "Violence, [is] the last option," said one senior member of Ahlawy, "simply breaking into the stadium ... because it will be the only available way to stop the league."

The Ultras were furious after the association decided to begin the season before the end of the trial of suspects in the deadly violence.

The February riot erupted at the final whistle when Al Masry fans invaded the pitch after their team beat the visitors 3-1, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al Ahly supporters, causing chaos and panic as players and fans fled in all directions.

The Port Said stadium deaths sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed.

The violence was one of the deadliest incidents in football history, and came amid charges from witnesses that security forces did little to prevent the rioting, prompting more deadly clashes in the days that followed. Nine policemen are among defendants in the trial which opened in April.

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