CAIRO: At least 22 Egyptian fans were initially reported killed in clashes in Cairo on Sunday night in the latest tragic outbreak of football-related violence in the country writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The tragedy cast a pall across all of African football just as Ivory Coast and Ghana were playing out the final of the Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and African confederation leader Issa Hayato, both senior members of the International Olympic Committee, had attached the western media for sensationalising incidents within the continent’s football. In addition to the deaths in Cairo a further two dozen fans were reported injured.
A health ministry spokesman at the Ahli Bank Hospital said: “The people who were killed died of suffocation and stampede after being tear-gassed.”
Egypt’s prosecutors department said it would launch an immediate investigation into the incident. Trouble was sparked when members of the Ultras White Knights sought to enter the army-owned Air Defence Stadium hours before Zamalek played ENPPI in a top-of-the-table clash.
The fan group, on its official Facebook page, published some photographs of alleged bodies of the victims, some wearing the club’s shirt, as well as a full list of their names.
The Egyptian interior ministry said a football crowd ban imposed agter the Port Said disaster in 2012 had been partly lifted for the game but a cap of 10,000 had been put on the attendance. Some 5,000 tickets had been issued to the clubs and a similar number put on general sale.
However, the Ministry said other Ultras then tried to attend the game without buying tickets.
A Ministry spokesman said: “The Zamalek fans tried to get in by force, and we had to prevent them from damaging public property.”
The fan group complained that access to the stadium had been restricted to one narrow channel and that the security forces unleashed tear gas as the supporters scrambled to enter despite a “tiny metal fence surrounded by barbed wire being the only gate opened for us.”
Zamalek board member Ahmed Mansour, son of chairman Mortada Mansour, said on his Facebook page: “You do not understand anything. You are not allowed to get in by force. No one will be allowed to attend the match without tickets.
“Football is only for respectable fans. No thugs are allowed here,” he added.
The match went ahead despite the tragedy though Zamalek defender Omar Gaber, one of the Ultras’ favourites, withdrew in support of the fans.
The Port Said tragedy saw Al Ahly supporters were attacked by the home Masry fans after the end of a league game in February 2012.
Around 70 fans were killed and hundreds injured and domestic competition was suspended for almost a year.
The Egyptian Football Association has repeatedly said new measures would be put in place in ensure fan safety but that did not materialise amid continued confrontations between hardcore fan groups, mainly those of Cairo duo Ahly and Zamalek, and security forces.
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