After nearly six years of banning football fans from attending local matches, Egypt allowed—for the first time since deadly riots in 2012—a limited number of fans to return to stadiums. However, clashes that broke out between fans and security forces during a match between Egypt’s Al Ahly SC and Gabon’s CF Mounana at Cairo International Stadium last Tuesday may complicate things again, as 40 fans have been arrested, according to lawyer Mohamed Hafez.
Hafez wrote on Saturday on his Facebook page that 40 members of Ultras Ahlawy, the hardcore club fanbase, have been arrested over clashes until now at unknown locations. The Ultras have also confirmed the arrest of “numbers” of its “well known” members from their houses and workplaces. The group offered their apology following the match, saying through their official Facebook page, “what happened from few irresponsible people, leading to this escalation, has nothing to do with the Ultras.”
Fans reportedly chanted for “freedom” and against the police. They allegedly lit firecrackers, broke stadium seats, and set two police vehicles on fire. Police attempted to arrest fans after allegedly moving into the upper deck of the stadium, according to local media.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek ordered an investigation into the clashes, saying in a statement last Thursday that clashes harm “Egypt’s security and safety.” He emphasised that the incident has nothing to do with Al Ahly Club. Based on Sadek’s directives, prosecution of the alleged perpetrators will be conducted quickly.
“I do not think this incident could lead to a new ban on fans. The match was not a good experience of course for the return, but the government will deal with this kind of incident in the right way”, MP Karim El-Sakka, member of parliament’s youth and sports committee, told Daily News Egypt on Sunday.
He added that every football club is responsible for its fans. “They should select who should attend the games,” he said, also noting, “young fans are manipulated for pollical purposes,” insisting that anyone who is proven to be guilty of riots should be accountable for their actions.
For its part, Al Ahly, headed by Mahmoud Al-Khateeb, denounced the behaviour of some fans during the match. The club’s administration reviewed the database of match tickets to determine the buyers and deliver their information to authorities to identify the figures behind the riot, according to the statement. It also added that the club’s administration always seeks the return of its fans to football games and was looking forward for this match to be a fresh beginning.
Moreover, the Egyptian Parliament’s youth and sports committee, headed by Farag Amer, said on Wednesday, the “incident reveals the truth that those political groups are driven and funded by forces of “evil” who act against the state. It also added that clashes have brought about EGP 650,000 in property damage to the stadium.
Football fans were banned from attending local matches in 2012 after 72 supporters died in clashes in a February stadium riot at a game in Port Said between local club Al-Masry and Al Ahly. In May 2015, an Egyptian court banned all hardcore football fan groups known as Ultras over terrorism accusations, considering all their activities illegal.