Members of the Al Ahly team run for their lives at the Al Masry stadium in Port Said
Egyptian soccer is in chaos, mirroring what that country is going through. The Egyptian prime minister dissolved the Egyptian Football Federation, Port Said's governor and police chief were sacked, and the Muslim Brotherhood launched a scathing attack on the Interior ministry, deeming it responsible for the violent Port Said clashes that left 74 dead and scores injured.
Meanwhile, Ultras groups in Cairo will convene to protest the lack of security that left Al Ahly supporters at the mercy of the Al Masry hordes that descended on the pitch and drove them to stampede. Many fans met their traumatized soccer brethren at Ramses station in downtown Cairo.
“Police are the thugs” and “Down, down with the military rule” were among the chants repeated by the heartbroken young fans as they congregated by the platforms.
A fan who saw the violence unfold on the pitch Twittered the chilling details.
“Police opened the way for hordes of Masry fans to reach us… when Ahly fans tried to run away they found exits which are normally open at the end of the match were locked. The fans found themselves stuck in a corridor “6 x 10 metres in size” crushing many. “
Many of them voiced their suspicions that this was an orchestrated event.
“The police deliberately absented themselves from this match to increase the violence,” says Mahmoud Hani, 21, who lost friends in the clashes. “It is clear that the fight was arranged and the security forces participated in this, to take the spotlight away from the revolution. The state needs people to be focused on something else.”
Pro-democracy activists have seized this moment to demand that the newly elected Parliament which will hold an emergency meeting today withdraw support from the Kamal El-Ganzouri led government backed by the military. Their demands also include the ruling military council speed up holding Presidential elections to ensure a transition to civilian rule much before June.
Meanwhile, the draconian emergency laws implemented by the Interior Minister to tamp down ostensibly on “thuggery” are being challenged by the human rights committee of the Parliament who see this as a political tool to put away opponents behind bars. The laws seem to be narrowly focused on punitive measures and not protecting civil rights and economic justice.
The Egyptian Revolution celebrated its one year anniversary a week ago, as hundreds of thousands descended on Tahrir Square with renewed calls for the military to step down. They replaced their chants of ” Mubarak must go” with ” Down with military rule”. The Al Ahly and Zamalek Ultras in a historical moment reached across their bitter divide and were instrumental in leading the charge in the 18 day standoff that brought the Mubarak regime. Ironically, just six months before Alla Mubarak manipulated the bloody Algeria Egypt World Cup playoff imbroglio that ended tragically in Khartoum to test the waters for a continuation of the Mubaraks in power.
The revolutionaries have also reached across borders in solidarity with the Syrian struggle for independence from the Basher Al Assad regime that has cracked down on activists with heavy handed brutality killing thousands. They are also forcing a rethink in Egyptian Israeli relations, always delicate with Egypt the only Arab country recognizing Israel, by voicing their support for a Palestinian state.