10 years after the Port Said massacre, the day the masses stopped cheering for death

Cairo- “The day of his victory, Leah Eid.. I will never be far away.. and the day I will stop the bravest of the bravest.. I will be dead for sure.” Hundreds of fans of the Ultras Ahly League were chanting these words at Port Said Stadium, in support of their Al-Ahly team, which lost its match against the Al-Masry team, but no one Of them, he did not expect that the match would end with the biggest disaster in Egyptian football in its history, and that dozens of them would never return from it.

Only a few days have passed since the first anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution, with all the demonstrations in the streets adhering to the fulfillment of the revolution’s demands, until Egypt witnessed a bloody massacre that no one expected to be a sports stadium during the football match in the local league between the two Al-Ahly teams And Al-Masry in Port Said, where 72 Al-Ahly fans were killed on February 1, 2012.

As soon as the match ended with the victory of the Al-Masry team, fans from the side of the Al-Masry stands rushed to the stands of Al-Ahly fans. Al-Ahly, so that the crime would take place in a few minutes, and dozens of souls – most of them teenagers – would ascend to their Creator.

The Ultras Ahlawy League was famous for its enthusiastic revolutionary songs, which resonated in Tahrir Square during the revolution and its aftermath. After the massacre, the Egyptians restored its songs and pictures of the victims, with great media interest in the bloody night.

As Al-Jazeera film “Whistle of Government” reviewed, the Port Said massacre was engraved in the convolutions of the mind, awareness and subconscious of all Ultras youth, as indicated by Professor of Psychiatry Ahmed Abdullah. The film also reviewed the accusations of multiple parties of orchestrating the massacre, in retaliation for the youth of the January revolution.

angry reactions

The head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at the time, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, vowed to prosecute the perpetrators of the massacre, and heated discussions erupted in the Egyptian People’s Assembly, in the first challenge to the elected parliament after the revolution, at a time when the streets of Tahrir Square and the streets leading to the Ministry of Interior building were just steps away from Parliament building ignites with bloody demonstrations again, angered by the failure of security forces to protect football fans.

The report of the fact-finding committee formed by the Egyptian People’s Assembly condemned the security services, the sports apparatus, and the media, accusing them of causing the disaster. It also stated that most of the deaths were due to suffocation and stampede, and the security forces did not receive immediate instructions to confront the riots.

case path

The issue of the Port Said stadium events occupied public opinion for months, until the Port Said Criminal Court issued a ruling transferring the papers of 21 of the defendants to the Mufti of the Republic (the death penalty) on January 26, 2013, and adjourning the ruling to the session of March 9, 2013.

The crowds gathered in front of Al-Ahly Club in the heart of Cairo calmed down, satisfied with the initial ruling, while crowds of the defendants’ families revolted in front of Port Said prison, and bloody clashes erupted, killing 22 people, including two policemen, and dozens of injured.

Subsequently, convictions were issued against 5 policemen, executives in the Egyptian club and others, and gradually the Port Said stadium massacre case moved away from media attention, and the case ended on February 20, 2017, with the Court of Cassation upholding the death sentences against 10 of the accused.

Al-Ahly club fans inside their club headquarters (Al-Jazeera)

After the massacre

On February 8, 2015, the disaster was repeated in Cairo, where a stampede of Zamalek fans before the league match between Zamalek and Enppi resulted in the death of 22 people, after police forces used tear gas canisters to disperse the fans, most of whom belong to the Zamalek Supporters Association “White.” Knights.”

In May 2015, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters issued a ruling banning the associations of fans of Egyptian sports teams known as “Ultras” as “violating the law,” and criminalizing the raising of Ultras banners, chanting or performing any of their activities, at a time when the official media was attacking the Ultras. He accuses them of violence and defiance of state institutions.

Soon, the ultras associations dissolved themselves, to stop the security pursuit of their members and to demand the release of their leaders behind bars, in preparation for the fans’ return to the stadiums.

In May 2018, the Al-Ahly Supporters Association, known as “Ultras Ahlawy,” announced the official dissolution of the group, and published a video clip of the group’s “banner” flag being burned on its official Facebook page, which means ending the association completely, as is customary among fan associations in the world.

The White Knights League also announced the dissolution of the League, and not to be drawn into any political currents. Members of the League said that they are part of the Egyptian state. Analysts expected that this step would be a prelude to the return of the masses to the stadiums, which did not happen.

Absence of the crowd

So far, a decade later, the Port Said massacre still casts a shadow over Egyptian football, and to this day it has not been allowed for the masses to attend in full numbers for the local league matches, and it is not known exactly when the Egyptian stadiums will regain their audience. The security authorities sometimes allow limited numbers to attend some international matches or important local matches.

Weeks ago, the head of the Youth and Sports Committee in the House of Representatives, Mahmoud Hussein, revealed that the committee is in the process of reaching a final decision to return the fans to the stadiums, especially as it represents the spirit of the game.

Hussein added – in an interview with Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine – “Of course, we are keen for the fans to return to the stadiums, but in the end, the lives of the Egyptians are above all considerations, and talking about their return will be difficult to achieve, yet we promise the Egyptian football fans by preparing clear mechanisms and thoughtful plans, It will be implemented as soon as the Corona crisis ends, especially since all concerned parties agree on a decision.”

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