Monday, February 9, 2015
Football fans die in stampede at Cairo stadium: 20 deaths
Updated. Dozens of fans of the Egyptian football club Zamalek were killed on Sunday evening as police attempted to disperse large crowds who were making their way through to attend a football game in the Egyptian Premier league, the deadliest football-related incident since the infamous Port Said disaster three years ago that killed more than 70 people. The number of victims was said to be as high as 30 at first, but was later corrected 19 deaths. (and three days later to 20)
The clashes erupted when a number of football fans attempted to get into the military-owned stadium without tickets to the Zamalek vs.ENPPI premier league game, according to the Interior Ministry. According to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, a number of fans lay in front of the bus transporting Zamalek football players to the stadium. Police dispersed the crowd using tear gas, which caused chaos that resulted in a stampede.
The Ultras White Knights Facebook page, the Facebook page of the ´´hard core´´ of the Zamalek fans, said some of the victims died of suffocation. The Facebook page claimed fans were stuck in a metal cage used to exit the stadium as police fired tear gas and Birdshot into the cage.A statement from the Health Ministry confirmed most of the deaths seemed to have been caused by a stampede, reportedly evidenced by bruising and several broken necks.
In an interview with the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the head of the Zamalek Club blamed the Brotherhood for the deaths and asked the prosecution to pursue the killers, claiming the police did not fire at fans.“Some hooligans stood in front of the club bus and prevented it from moving forward. The situation inside the stadium was great. But the White Knights members stormed the stadium with the aim of a massacre, and this is what happened. The Ultras have harmed Egypt and vowed to burn the Zamalek club. They are criminals."
There has been long-standing animosity between police forces and the Ultras, but their relationship worsened after the January 25 revolution due to the presence of the hardcore football fans at anti-police protests. Some accuse the Interior Ministry of a failure to respond to the Port Said tragedy, and others go even further in asserting the massacre was a set up to pay the Ultras back for their role in the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
A ban on fans attending games that has been in place since the 2012 Port Said tragedy, which left over 70 Ahly fans dead, was partially lifted last week as authorities said they would gradually allow fans to return to the stands. Only 10,000 supporters were allowed to attend the match against ENPPI, with 5,000 tickets up for public sale and as many distributed by the club itself.
The match continued, despite the chaos unfolding outside the stadium. Al-Ahram reported that Zamalek player Omar Gaber withdrew from the game in support of the fans, who reportedly held banners calling for an end to the match. Gaber was later suspended by the Zamalek management for "sympathizing" with the Ultras.