The following is the full testimony of Romany Samir, one of the fans who managed to enter the Air Defence Stadium on 8 February, and his account of the clashes that would see over 22 people killed that night.
“I arrived around 4:45 pm and it was extremely crowded. There were several rows of waiting lines and I was in a line on a sidewalk, after which it would move to the right then eventually reach the ‘caged gate’.
From where I stood I could see the cage, because it was on a lower ground level than I was. I saw thousands of people everywhere. You had to finish the line, go by the cage, and pass security men and barbed wires, which can allow one or two persons maximum to cross. But the doors remained closed and Central Security Forces (CSF) blocked the way from the caged gate to the stadium’s last entry gate.
Trouble started suddenly. I heard people screaming at security to open the doors because they were suffocating. Everything happened so fast and so violently. Tear gas grenades were falling on people from everywhere.
I saw people fainting and falling, helping each other and those stuck in the stampede. More people were falling to the floor, others were running away in all directions away from the clashes. I did not hear or see shots being fired, but tear gas was coming from behind the gates towards the crowds. I saw excessive gas and CSF beating people with sticks.
We were able to reach our car and left without one of our friends, whom we had lost in the crowds. Telephone signals were cut off because it is a military area. Instead, we took a young man with us, who begged us to take him away from the clashes.
It was then that I saw a police car on fire, blocking the street. I did not see how the fire started, but I was told it was a flare from the public, because the car had hit somebody.
We drove to a nearby square and people were still fleeing the conflict zone to the highway, because the stadium’s surroundings are not paved and many had breathing problems due to the gas and having to run in the sands. So streets were blocked by people arriving from the stadium direction. The smell of gas was increasing.
At that time, we did not know of any deaths but it was over: there were those who could not get out, those who fell in the stampede, but we didn’t see that. We drove back to the stadium and reached the gate again. The gate was separated into two parts; one of them had the cage and the one we used did not.
I had not bought tickets to the game because I was counting on a friend of mine who had served in the military, and who could get us in. In our second entrance attempt, things were calmer, people were lining up and they were let in according to their tickets if they had any.
Nobody asked us – me and four others – for anything when we went in, no money, no searching. At this very moment, Mortada Mansour and his son entered through the same gate and let in some who were cheering for him, and people went inside randomly.
We were still waiting outside looking for our friend and we found out he was inside the stadium. He told us he just snuck in unnoticed with a group of people, with no tickets, and nobody asked him about anything.
Then we saw the Zamalek team’s bus preceded by an armoured vehicle, and I saw the players inside it while the bus was empty.
We went in and sat in the third-class seats, as more people were getting in. I then saw the Ultras members – whom I do not know personally – forming groups among the audience near the stadium’s big screen. They turned their backs to the playground and chanted against the police. They didn’t have any flares.
My friend and I moved away from those groups as they started leaving and things got calmer. I was checking my phone about the formation of the team and there was still no news about any deaths, just clashes.
I noticed that the announced team had Omar Gaber in it, but when the players entered, Gaber was not among them and Hazem Imam was there instead. We started getting suspicious: was it a technical change? At the same time, the Ultras were back infiltrating the amphitheatre.
“Are you watching a game while people are dying outside?” they shouted, addressing the public, which led to disputes. We still had not realised what exactly had happened. We thought they were spreading a rumour to escalate the situation.
The game continued. The groups started loud chants about ‘martyrs’ and counted: 16! 17! and so on… They were about 200 to 300, and started to call Gaber.
Gaber first responded by waving at them to calm down, for the sake of the club, pointing to his shirt. Many of the crowds also began leaving before the last quarter of the game. That is when I felt something was wrong; something had happened that I did not know of.
Our exit process was smooth, and then I checked the news and found out. The deaths had happened when we had left the first time.
Security said the crowds were prevented from entering for not having tickets, whereas during the last game between Egypt and Tunisia they announced that there will be 10,000 tickets but let at least 40,000 or 45,000 people in. There were no cages then, no clashes and no injuries whatsoever.
Sunday’s clashes started nearly 10 minutes after I arrived. If I had been there earlier I would have been standing in an advanced level of the line, closer to the danger.
I am not a revolutionary person at all. I support the government and I reject conspiracy theories. I also regularly attend football matches and am used to the security check, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen this weird ‘security gate’.
If it was about security and organisation, why did security not let those who had passed the cage get in? On which grounds were there people inside the stadium? It is not like the club had announced specific entrance times, which is also a widely practiced procedure.
Also, why did security men completely ignore thousands of people crying: “Please open, we are dying!” There were boys, girl and children, and it seems as if security men were just watching an amusing scene.
By the way, when security usually wants to disperse people they distribute themselves over different groups and threaten them with stick so crowds take a step back. But Sunday’s distribution of forces, surrounding people and trapping them in one area, implies that security had a motive beyond just preventing people from entering.
I hear on TV later that night that out of the 10,000 tickets, nearly 2,000 were not sold. However, it is incorrect to suggest that there were 8,000 people inside. The stadium was full; you’re talking about at least some 30,000 people.”