28 February 2015
An Egyptian cabinet decision to end the suspension of professional football in late March but reinstitute the ban on spectators attending matches could spark renewed clashes between militant fans and security forces. The decision against the backdrop of mounting evidence that Egyptian general-turned-President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has no apparent intention of easing repression, implicitly acknowledges the role of fans in continued widespread opposition to his rule.
Professional football was suspended in early February after some 20 members of Ultras White Knights (UWK), the militant support group of Zamalek SC, were killed in a stampede at a Cairo stadium. The incident was likely the result of supporters seeking to gain access to a match in the absence of available tickets rather than a deliberate and planned assault by security forces. UWK is nevertheless convinced that it was targeted by security forces, much like militant supports of Zamalek arch rival Al-Ahly were three years ago.
Football has been suspended for much of the last four years since mass anti-government protests erupted in 2011 that forced President Hosni Mubarak from office. Spectators have been banned from matches that were played since 74 supporters of Al-Ahly were killed in 2012 in a politically loaded brawl in Port Said. The stampede in Cairo was after Port Said, the worst sporting incident in recent Egyptian sporting history.
…James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Wurzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 02/03/2015