07 December 2014
Militant, street battle-hardened football fans stormed a Cairo stadium in advance of the second leg of crowned Al-Ahly SC’s African Confederation Cup final against Ivory Coast’s Séwé Sport in a reassertion of the fans’ key role in protests against the regime of toppled president Hosni Mubarak and subsequent governments.
The storming constituted the fans’ rejection of a Ministry of Interior appeal, which has banned spectators from attending matches for much of the last four years, to cooperate in ensuring an Egyptian triumph on the pitch. The appeal was an effort by the ministry, the target of deep-seated football fan hostility because of its control of Egypt’s despised police and security forces, to pave the way for a reopening of stadia to spectators.
The appeal was also an attempt to rekindle differences among various groups of militant football fans or ultras whose rivalry is rooted in their intense loyalty to competing clubs. It comes at a time that an Islamist group, Ultras Nahdawy, plays a key role in mass student protests against general-turned president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and Ultras White Knights (UWK), the support group of Al-Zamalek SC that, like the Al-Ahly fans, plays a key role in Mubarak’s overthrow. It is fighting an attempt in the courts to outlaw it as a terrorist organisation.
…James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author ofThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccerblog and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 08/12/2014