Egypt soccer riots 'like a war'

2012-02-02 07:03

Cairo - At least 74 people were killed and hundreds injured after soccer fans rushed the field in the seaside city of Port Said on Wednesday following an upset victory by the home team over Egypt's top club, setting off clashes and a stampede as riot police largely failed to intervene.

It was a bloody reminder of the deteriorating security in the Arab world's most populous country, as instability continues nearly a year after former president Hosni Mubarak was swept out of power in a popular uprising.

The melee - which followed an Egyptian league match between Al-Masry, the home team in the Mediterranean city, and Al-Ahly, based in Cairo and one of Egypt's most popular teams - was the worst case of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996. One player said it was "like a war".

In Cairo, fans angered that another match between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek was halted because of the Port Said violence set fire to the bleachers at the main stadium in the Egyptian capital, authorities said. No injuries were reported, and employees said firefighters extinguished the blaze before it caused much damage.

Police told not to 'engage'

The clashes and ensuing stampede did not appear to be directly linked to the political turmoil in Egypt, but the violence raised fresh concerns about the ability of the state police to manage crowds. Most of the hundreds of black-uniformed police with helmets and shields stood in lines and did nothing as soccer fans chased either, some wielding sharp objects and others hurling sticks and rocks.

Security officials said the ministry has issued directives for its personnel not to "engage" with civilians after recent clashes between police and protesters in November left more than 40 people dead.

The violence also underscored the role of soccer fans in Egypt's recent protest movement. Organised fans, in groups known as ultras, have played an important role in the revolution and rallies against military rule. Their anti-police songs, peppered with curses, have quickly become viral and an expression of the hatred many Egyptians feel toward security forces that were accused of much of the abuse that was widespread under Mubarak's regime.

Egypt is not immune to soccer violence. In April, the ineffectiveness of the police force also was on display when thousands of fans ran onto the field before the end of an African Champions League game between local club Zamalek and Tunisia's Club Africain. The hundreds of police on duty at Cairo International Stadium could not stop the violence then, either.


Activists scheduled rallies on Thursday outside the headquarters of the interior ministry in Cairo to protest the inability of the police to stop the bloodshed.

Many gathered outside Al-Ahly club in Cairo, chanting slogans against military rule, and hundreds filed into Cairo's main train station to receive the injured arriving from Port Said. "We die like them, or we ensure their rights," the crowd chanted, along with slogans denouncing the military rulers.

As the train arrived, scores jumped on top of the train and raised Egyptian flags.

"They came at us with machetes and knives...they threw some of us from the fourth floor," one returning fan told the private TV station ONTV.

"Everyone was beating us. They were beating us from inside and outside, with fireworks, stones, metal bars, and some had knives, I swear," another fan told the station, which did not give their names.

In Port Said, residents marched early on Thursday, denouncing the violence and saying it was a conspiracy by the military and police to cause chaos.

Army tanks and armoured vehicles joined police patrolling near hospitals and morgues. Police were not to be seen in the streets after the violence and were unavailable to break up fights that followed.

Tension spreads

The tension also spread to the nearby Suez province. About 500 protesters, including soccer fans and activists, gathered outside the main police headquarters to protest what they called police negligence.

A security official said the police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak to reporters.

The scuffles erupted when fans of Al-Masry stormed the field following a rare 3-1 win against Al-Ahly. Al-Masry supporters hurled sticks and stones as they chased players and fans from the rival team, who ran toward the exits and up the stands to escape, according to witnesses. One man told state TV he heard gunshots in the stadium, while a lawmaker from Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood said the police didn't prevent fans carrying knives from entering the stadium.

TV footage showed Al-Ahly players rushing for their locker room as fistfights broke out among the hundreds of fans swarming on to the field. Some men had to rescue a manager from the losing team as he was being beaten. Black-clothed police officers stood by, appearing overwhelmed.

The Interior Ministry said 74 people died, including one police officer, and 248 were injured, 14 of them police. A local health official initially said 1 000 people were injured and it was not clear how severely. Security forces arrested 47 people for involvement in the violence, the statement said.

State TV appealed to Egyptians to donate blood for the injured in Port Said, and the military sent two aircraft to evacuate serious cases to the capital, Cairo.

'Black day for football'

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military leadership that assumed power after Mubarak's ouster, welcomed Al-Ahly team players who were flown back to Cairo from Port Said on a military aircraft.

"This will not bring Egypt down," he told reporters at a military air base east of Cairo. "These incidents happen anywhere in the world. We will not let those behind it go ...This will not affect Egypt and its security."

Tantawi said Egyptians should not be silent in the face of such acts of violence. "We don't want people to sit idle after acts like these...Why are the people silent," Tantawi said. Such statements have been followed by clashes in the past.

The military declared three days of mourning starting Thursday.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths.

"This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen," he said in a statement.

The Confederation of African Football, which organises the African Cup, said a minute's silence would be held before all quarterfinals this weekend as a mark of respect for the dead.

CAF President Issa Hayatou said, "African football is in a state of mourning".

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

  • Johnny Mostert - 2012-02-02 07:18

      ivan.coetzee2 - 2012-02-02 07:40

      As if this country doesn't have enough crap going on, way way too much tension happening there.

      ivan.coetzee2 - 2012-02-02 07:40

      As if this country doesn't have enough crap going on, way way too much tension happening there.

      Ja - 2012-02-06 18:55

      Why do you idiots at News 24 keep deleting comments ..

      Ja - 2012-02-06 18:56

      Why do you idiots at News 24 keep deleting comments ..

  • Gary - 2012-02-02 07:21

    Soccer fans are hooligans...what more can i say

      Lorenzo - 2012-02-02 09:33

      I love Football… but you quickly realise how incredibly idiotic the human race is when you hear about stuff like this. I mean to RIOT over a game of football. To actually physically fight someone or destroy property over your team losing A GAME of FOOTBALL is just so inconceivably retarded, it boggles my mind.

      daniele.zanato - 2012-02-02 10:22

      Yes that's right Gary all fans are hooligans and everyone that generalises like that is usually a blithering idiot with a low IQ and major self-esteem problems who still needs his mommy. Now go comment on something you know about, like drooling or scratching your arse.

      Gary - 2012-02-02 12:24

      @daniele - you proved my point. Thanks. Now run off and go break your mothers furniture. HOOLIGAN.

      daniele.zanato - 2012-02-02 13:34

      How did I prove your point you imbecile? Every time violence has erupted at a football match its been either political, religious or organised crime and nothing to do with actual football. It happens at football matches because the coverage is far greater than any other sport so more people will see it and get involved. I've been a football fan my entire life and never been involved or ever seen any violence or pitch invasions. Your generalisation is the exact reason the sport gets the bad name instead of the true culprits. Basic research would have shown you that but like the rest of the muppets you know best.

      Anthony - 2012-02-02 14:02

      @Daniele.Zanato Wow, You might be a soccer fan, but you are also a fan of insults and filth !!!! If there was not such a strict police control at English matches, and many "fans" banned from the grounds, there would also be total chaos !!! And for instance, in countries like Holland, certain matches are played with NO public, to avoid soccer hooligans breaking the place down. This has nothing to do with politics, religion or organisez crime.. Now go to the movies and relax !!!

      daniele.zanato - 2012-02-02 15:26

      @Anthony BTW games played in Holland behind closed doors are exactly about politics and religion. From Wikipedia - Ajax from Amsterdam are Feyenoord's arch rivals. The two clubs share a long history together and matches between the two clubs are called the Klassieker (The Classic) The rivalry is not only between the two teams, but also a confrontation between the two largest cities of the country, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, two cities with extreme differences in attitude and culture.

      Anthony - 2012-02-02 15:39

      @Daniele.Zanato Sorry, but soccer in Holland, or for that matter, in most, if not all countries , has nothing to do with politics or religion. They have, like in many countries, a major problem with soccer hooligans!! Sure, there is rivalry between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but its not serious stuff, its more of poking fun at each other.

  • Henri James Christie - 2012-02-02 07:25

    Enough soccer matches and Egypt could change from being the most populous country in Africa!!!

  • adrien.mcguire - 2012-02-02 07:26

    The players and the fans are as bad as each other. This is why I hate the game ! Watch the 'thumbs down' . look at the facts and face it. Overpaid peasants !

      RemoteMedic - 2012-02-02 07:41

      Sorry mate, had to thumbs up this one, but let's see how many thumbs down you gonna get. :-)

      RemoteMedic - 2012-02-02 07:41

      Sorry mate, had to thumbs up this one, but let's see how many thumbs down you gonna get. :-)

      carpejugulim - 2012-02-02 08:00

      Bunch of Primadonnas

      carpejugulim - 2012-02-02 08:00

      Bunch of Primadonnas

  • Bayanda - 2012-02-02 07:31


  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-02-02 07:41

    They didn't like Mubarak. Now they don't like the military. The problem these days is that people are chronically unhappy with whatever authority is over them. So what happens? The Police ("authority") stand back and watch..."don't engage". The result=chaos.

  • StarStruck - 2012-02-02 07:52

    Egypt was still full of tension even before the game. The organisers should have known better.

  • derrick.dawson - 2012-02-02 08:04

    Rugby - A hooligans game played and supported by gentleman Soccer - A gentlemen's game played and supported by hooligans

  • Ian - 2012-02-02 08:08

    got as far as club "Zamalek" . . . tia, this is africa.. f**k me LOL hahahahahahahahahahaha

  • Nazeem - 2012-02-02 08:09

    Those sports men have no regard in their hearts for their fans,they only interested to fill there own coffers.

  • Stan - 2012-02-02 08:10

    Is it safe to say that Mubarak wasn't the problem then?

      Tami Mandi - 2012-02-02 09:33

      True Stan, the violence persists even though he long stepped down. Egypt needs, Jesus.

  • Sechaba - 2012-02-02 08:10

    Kaizer Chiefs always lose to lower league teams and we never fought against our rival team, maybe Al-Ahly fans should learn from Kaizer Chiefs, it is called "the beatuful game" why turn it ugly by fighting each other??

      Su - 2012-02-02 08:56

      Rise Khosi rise! Best we stay home and enjoy our hooligan game here. I have NEVER felt threatened or unsafe in the soccer stadiums in SA and i have been to all of them except Mbombela. Its political tension that is causing this hatred to spill over. It has NOTHING to do with the beautiful game.

      louis.langenhoven - 2012-02-02 09:25

      eish baba I like the moral of your story but to say "Kaizer Chiefs always lose to lower league teams" really hurts me!;-)

  • Vuyo - 2012-02-02 08:12

    Violence begets violence . People should know this by now . Any overthrow of government will always come at a price . People are now used to violence and it is going to be difficult to control them .

  • janjohanwim - 2012-02-02 08:24

    humanity is a stupid race. we are the only species with so-called "higher intelligence" proving that progress has served to achieve the contrary.

  • johann.erasmus - 2012-02-02 08:28 here is the youtube clip!

  • Erich - 2012-02-02 08:38

    The last stampede of this magnitude in this region was during the 7 day war when the Arabs discarded their sandals and ran barefoot into the dessert. It must be a terrible death to be killed by hundreds of feet in a land where water is at a premium.

      John - 2012-02-02 09:00

      6 day war old chap. The Israelis rested on the 7th

  • Thokozane - 2012-02-02 08:45

    Soccer is a very emotional game. Sounds like security measures are non-existant, how do people walk into the stadium with sharp objects, and stones? I wonder. Al-Ahly is one of the biggest teams in Africa, and they could have seen this coming. Rather ban the fans from attending matches until the unrest settles. We have seen the chaos caused by emotional fans, whether it be in Europe or Africa. Condolences to the family who lost their loved ones, and a speedy recovery to those injured.

      Christon Thoresson - 2012-02-02 09:47

      this is disgusting they are considered murderers they went there with the intention to hurt and do damage they are no better than a rapist, thief and murderer. may KARMA visit then in the worst of ways

  • justin.pretorius - 2012-02-02 09:06

    The only sport where spectators get killed more regularly

  • Christon Thoresson - 2012-02-02 09:49

    sechaba do not forget it was in 2001 at ellis park, where 43 people were killed and the game being played was kaizer chiefs vs orlando pirates!!!

  • thelittlegreenhouse - 2012-02-02 14:32

    Very sad for the victims and their loved ones, but why all the surprise that a large group of excited and irrational people (sports supporters in this case) should become violent? Enormous sports events are inevitably filled with Irrationalism and Passion. These are not ingredients for respect or peace. The surprise is that this doesn't happen more often.

  • Ja - 2012-02-02 15:13

    Why do they keep deleting comments ..

      Hector - 2012-02-02 15:57

      I had the same thing .. not even up for 10min .. poof gone and i did't even get one thumbs down

  • Mc - 2012-02-02 16:45

    Let the fools kill each other off, they are overpopulated!

  • Andries - 2012-02-02 18:14

    Soccer players are not hooligans - their fans are. The players are simply over-hyped out-of-the-closets. "Boyzzzz!! Please huggggg meeeeee!!!" Rugby players are the hooligans - their fans are just boeppens, beer drinking, rose tinted softies.

  • Eric - 2012-02-03 05:09

    Yes - Exactly "like a war." An it's not just soccer. Sports channel testosterone into a sort of mock warfare. We pretend that a little competitio­n is a good thing while out of control competitio­n leads to violence. But to me, that's like saying that a little drug use is OK, maybe smoking crank, as long as you don't inject heroin into your eyeballs. It's a bad continuum. Here's what I think about competitio­n: http://dai­sybrain.wo­­m/2010/02/­22/against­-competiti­on/

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