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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Egypt to lift ban on attending football matches, six years after Port Said stadium disaster

More than 70 people died in the 2012 riots

El Ismaily players react after Mohamed Sherif Al Ahly scores his goal in Cairo's Al Salam stadium. Reuters 
El Ismaily players react after Mohamed Sherif Al Ahly scores his goal in Cairo's Al Salam stadium. Reuters 

Egypt's sport minister will lift on September 1 a six-year ban on sports fans attending football games in stadiums. The announcement comes six years after a deadly riot broke out inside Port Said stadium, killing 73 supporters of Egypt's top team Al Ahly and triggering the ban.

The Sports Ministry has agreed to allow a limit of 5,000 fans to watch local matches and 20,000 for international ones.

“Everyone is looking forward to the public’s return to the stands once again," Egypt's Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhy said. "So they can attend their matches and encourage their teams in the appropriate manner.”

One Egyptian football fan told the BBC he was very excited, but hoped that a better security system would be put in place.

"Every crisis that takes place the easiest options is to ban the fans. The security is not really the fan's fault but the fans get punished every time something happens, there's no system in place," said Abu Bakr.

The Port Said stadium disaster in 2012 is still regarded as the country's most violent football riot. More than 70 people died as panicked supporters attempted to flee the stadium, crushing and injuring 1,000 people. Eleven men were sentenced to death for their role in the riot, 10 were given 15 years and 14 others were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The violence is believed to have started when banners insulting the local team angered supporters, sparking clashes between the two sides.

Initially Egypt introduced new regulations limiting the number of people allowed to attend games. Some supporters responded by storming stadiums, resulting in injuries, and later leading to a complete ban.

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