x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Egyptians would never, ever kill each other over football'

For hard-core fans, all signs point to a high-level conspiracy.

Egyptian women react outside a morgue in Cairo after hearing about the death of their relatives during clashes at a soccer stadium.
Egyptian women react outside a morgue in Cairo after hearing about the death of their relatives during clashes at a soccer stadium.

AIRO // Mohammed Anwar, a self-avowed fanatic for his beloved Al Ahly team, said he does not know when he will be able to watch a football game again without crying.

"How can we enjoy football now?" he said, wearing a red-and-white jersey for the team and matching trainers. "This is a black day for all of us."

Mr Anwar, 25, an industrial worker, was among thousands outside the club's headquarters on the Cairo island of Zamalek. They were mourning the deaths of their fellow fans and demanding justice against the conspiratorial forces they blame for the riot at a game on Wednesday night in Port Said that led to 74 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries.

He blamed the Ministry of Interior, the military and the remnants of the Hosni Mubarak regime for orchestrating the event to take revenge on the "ultras", the most hard-core fans of Al Ahly. Those members, along with "ultras" from the other popular Cairo team Zamalek, played an important role in fighting with security forces during the uprising last year that toppled Mubarak.

"The whole thing is a conspiracy to take revenge on the ultras of Al Ahly who protected the revolution in Tahrir Square," said Mr Anwar, who added that one of his friends was trampled to death.

The role of the "ultras" was commemorated in a comic book by Mohamed Beshir, who says he has been a part of the "ultra" movement for years, published in January.

In it, the football fans are portrayed as heroes waging battle with the security forces during the 18-day uprising that began more than a year ago and ended with Mubarak's resignation as president on February 11, 2011. One of the biggest battles, known as the Camel Battle because of the armed men on camels who attacked the protesters in Tahrir Square, took place a year ago yesterday.

Other fans in front of Al Ahly yesterday acknowledged a rivalry between their team and Al Masry, but said Egyptians would not kill each other over the sport.

"Egyptians would never, ever kill each other over football," said Mohammed Shawki, 31, who works as a driver for a tourism company. "This is a conspiracy by those in Tora" prison, where some of Mubarak's former ministers are detained on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters.

Mr Shawki, wearing a bright red shirt, said the conspiracy was clear: why would Al Masry fans attack Al Ahly fans after they saw their team win 3 to 1?

"This is not about a football match," he shouted as fellow fans gathered around him.

"This was a planned attack before the game even began."

bhope@thenational.ae