Port Said Stadium riot
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
|Port Said Stadium disaster|
|Date||1 February 2012|
|Location||Port Said Stadium, Port Said, Egypt
|Methods||Rival fans attacked El Ahly players and their fans with bottles, stones, knives, and fireworks.|
On 1 February 2012, a massive riot occurred at Port Said Stadium in Port Said, Egypt, following an Egyptian Premier League football match between El Masry and El Ahly. At least 72 people were killed and more than 500 were injured after thousands of El Masry spectators stormed the stadium stands and the pitch, following a 3–1 victory by El Masry.
The match kick-off was delayed thirty minutes because El Masry fans were on the pitch before the match. During half-time and after each of the three second half goals for El Masry, the club's supporters stormed the pitch, and at the conclusion of the match, thousands of spectators ran onto the playing field. El Masry fans first threw bottles and fireworks at the El Ahly players, who ran away from their attackers and Ahly fans kept chanting asking the police to protect the players which happened then as the police urged the squad to their clothes changing rooms. The Masry fans were armed with stones and some of them carried knives and subsequently attacked the El Ahly fans, who tried to escape by running away, yet all the stadium's gates were still closed resulting in this football disaster.
In the ensuing melees, 72 people were killed. Some were stabbed and clubbed, while others were deliberately thrown off the stands or died in the stampede as they were trying to escape through a closed stadium gate in the back of the stands. Hisham Sheha, an official in the Egyptian health ministry, said the deaths were caused by stab wounds, brain hemorrhages, and concussions. Over 500 injuries were reported, some from the panic in the crowd as fans tried to escape. At least 47 people from El Masry fans were arrested. The Egyptian army airlifted in soldiers by helicopter to rescue players who had been stranded and trapped in the locker rooms.
El Ahly coach Manuel José was kicked and punched by El Masry fans after he was unable to return to his locker room. He was afterwards taken to a police station. Both José and Mohamed Aboutrika reported that they witnessed Ahly fans died in El Ahly locker room. As an immediate reaction to this disaster, Egyptian football ace Mohamed Aboutrika decided to retire from football, along with other Egyptian international football stars Mohamed Barakat and Emad Moteab, while El Ahly coach Manuel José seriously considered leaving Egypt and giving up football coaching for good.
Video footage appears to show that the police appeared to be unable or unwilling to contain the groups attacking with knives and other white weapons. Eyewitnesses said that the police "did nothing to stop it", and "refused to open the closed gates" to allow the crowds to escape. The bureau chief of the Voice of America in Egypt received reports that police opened barriers separating El Ahly and El Masry supporters. Another witness said that many people were allowed into the stadium without tickets. The New York Times reported that a major factor in the riots was retaliation on the part of the authorities towards the Ultras Ahlawy, who were actively involved Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution protests and then during the SCAF Tantawy rule as they kept chanting Anti-Government Revolutionary chants in almost all Ahly games in the Egyptian Premier league.
The BBC reported that the Egyptian deputy health minister said that "'it is the biggest disaster in the country's football history." The Parliament of Egypt called for an emergency session to be held on 2 February 2012 to discuss a response. Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood asserted that security authorities had hesitated to act.
Another match in Cairo, Zamalek SC vs Ismaily SC, was cancelled due to the Port Said deaths. Subsequent matches of the 2011–12 Egyptian Premier League were immediately postponed following the disaster. On 10 March 2012, the Egyptian Football Association announced their decision to cancel the remainder of the season. A spokesperson for the Egyptian Football Association said the decision was made because there was insufficient time to play the remaining games before the national team was scheduled to compete in the 2012 Olympics and qualifiers for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. FIFA President Sepp Blatter issued a statement that read: "I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of Football supporters have died or been injured following a match in Port Said, Egypt. My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives this evening. This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen."
In an interview with British writer Islam Issa, Al-Masry's captain Karim Zekri and his brother, former Masry player Mohamed Zekri, went on record as saying that the police, army and ex-regime incited the massacre. They added that there were numerous factors suggesting that it was planned, including the lack of searching and ticket inspection outside the stadium, the floodlights switching off, the welding of the away stand's gate, and the arrival of thugs from outside of the game.
El Ahly coach Manuel José said that the whole massacre was orchestrated. He said that at the north end of the stadium there was a banner that said, in English: "We are going to kill you all", a slogan which he thought was directed at the international media and not at the teams. He said that the gates at the south end, where the El Ahly fans were located, were locked and some fans died of asphyxiation there.[verification needed] He criticized the police, saying that they were sitting down, not facing the pitch and did not move at all during all the pitch invasions that occurred throughout the match, despite being armed and in considerable numbers. José considered retiring the team at half-time and said that the referee should have cancelled the match then. He stated that he saw everyone going towards the El-Ahly end and saw people falling off the stands. He was taken to a VIP room and tried to return to the locker room, but it was impossible to get there. He reported that four people died in the El-Ahly locker room.[verification needed] José will return to Portugal for a month and gave the team a vacation period. He wishes to remain at El-Ahly for a couple more years before retiring, saying that he likes living there, loves the club and is treated very well.
ESPN.com columnist Brent Latham, however, suggested that the virtually unanimous verdict of the Egyptian public was that the riots were politically motivated: "It's been widely noted that the circumstances surrounding the riot are suspicious at best. The massacre came on the one-year anniversary of the storming of Tahrir Square by a group of pro-Mubarak counter-revolutionaries. It was directed at a group known for manifesting a liberal political agenda through support for a team founded in the name of historically disenfranchised workers and students. And it occurred at a moment when the interim military government has urged the citizenry to support the extension of emergency powers, and with the seeming complicity of law enforcement and stadium security."
Alleged political involvement
Following the incident, anti-government political activists accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and remnants of the old regime still in positions of power, asserting that the events were of a "counter revolutionary" nature. Activists cited the recent rise of high-profile crime levels in the week leading up to the event as evidence that the violence had been organized (in Cairo and Helwan: two bank robberies and the heist of an armored vehicle transporting money. In Sharm el-Sheikh: an armed robbery in a currency exchange led to the murder of a French tourist).
The significance of the date on which the violence occurred also supported these allegations: the violence in Port Said took place on the eve of the first anniversary of what later became known as "the battle of the camel", when armed thugs stormed protesters in Tahrir Square on camel-back. This was seen by activists as a last-ditch effort by the ruling party to assert control and spread fear of chaos (Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president at the time, having warned, in a televised speech on 1 February 2011, of "chaos" if he was to step down).
Security irregularities prior to the game have also been referred to in the activists' allegations; attendees of the game claimed that, in contrast with normal procedures, no security searches were conducted at the stadium entrances, allowing makeshift weapons to be smuggled in. Eyewitnesses also claimed that the attending security personnel took no action to prevent or mitigate the clashes, effectively standing aside and observing the attacks take place. There were other claims that the gates of the stadium were locked shut, locking the minority El Ahly supporters in.
El Ahly ultras claim that they were specifically targeted given their vocal, and recently highly televised calls for the SCAF to step down in recent games, as well as their open mockery of the previous regime and the SCAF. The ultras have been one of the largest organized bodies of resistance in recent street protests after the conspicuous absence of the Muslim Brotherhood following parliamentary elections.
On 26 January 2013, the Port Said court held in the Police Academy, First Avenue, New Cairo sent the papers of 21 defendants to the Mufti, a verdict equivalent to a death sentence, indicating that only the Mufti's approval is required on the death sentence. A verdict against the other 52 defendants was postponed to 9 March 2013. There was an outburst of emotion from the families of the defendants when the judge announced the sentence, requiring him to ask for discipline in the court several times. Some parents fainted from shock. The Ahly ultras celebrated the verdict by carrying out demonstrations praising the sentence in front of their club branch in Zamalek and asking for the trial of the officers who were involved in the disaster. They then moved their demonstration to the Ministry of Interior headquarters to assert their demands of prosecuting the officers, resulting in clashes with the police. Police shot tear gas to disperse the protestors.
|This section is outdated. (February 2013)|
The people of Port Said have seen the verdict as a political decision rather than a fair trial. In addition, several Port Said officials have announced their condemnation on various TV channels. Some of the defendants' families and the Masry ultras gathered around the prison in Port Said while others went to block the main Mohamed Ali Street leading to the Port Said Governorate headquarters. In addition, a third group blocked the gates of a major textile industrial complex that employs about 20,000 workers. Amid the death sentence protests in Port Said, clashes erupted between pro-defendants' protestors and security forces in the circumference of the Port Said General Prison. By January 26, as many as two police officers and 20 civilians have been killed and over 250 were injured. On 27 January 2013, Egypt's government was reported to have lost control of the city.
1 February 2012
|El Masry||3–1||El Ahly|
|Zakaria 72', 83'
|Report||Fábio Junior 11'|
- 2009 Egypt–Algeria World Cup Cairo clashes
- Zamalek Pitch invasion
- Football hooliganism
- Politics and sport
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