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Egyptian political parties, groups voice support for Ultras' demands

Muslim Brotherhood's FJP, along with other political parties and groups, throws weight behind Ultras' demand to suspend Egypt's Super Cup until those responsible for Port Said disaster are brought to justice

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Sunday 9 Sep 2012
Ultras demands
Many political groups have voiced support to Ulras Ahlawy (photo: AL-Ahram)
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Several political groups and parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), have declared their support for demands issued by the Ultras Ahlawy – hardcore football fans – to suspend Egypt's Super Cup football competition until the perpetrators of February's Port Said stadium tragedy, Egypt’s worst-ever football disaster in which 74 Ultras were killed, are brought to justice.

The run-up to Sunday's match was dominated by fears of potential clashes between frustrated fans and security forces after the interior ministry gave the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) the green light to hold the match, despite incessant protests by the Ultras Ahlawy.

The Ultras Ahlawy, who oppose the resumption of domestic football activity until those responsible for the Port Said tragedy are prosecuted, had vowed to storm Alexandria's Borg Al-Arab stadium – where the match is slated to be held – if the EFA doesn't reverse its decision.

In a last-minute about-face, however, the group announced early Sunday morning that it had retracted its threat to invade the stadium "so as to avoid bloodshed."

Nevertheless, members of an Ultras sub-group – the 'Ultras Devils' – have headed to the stadium to protest the match.

The Ultras Ahlawy have since listed six demands. These include the resignation of Ahly’s board of directors – who they believe have not done enough to pressure authorities into punishing the culprits of the Port Said stadium disaster – and the resignation of all EFA board members. They also demand that Egyptian sports media be purged of all remnants of the ousted Mubarak regime.

Apart from their football-related demands, the Ultras have also been pressing for the prosecution of those responsible for the Port Said disaster, a demand that has been seconded by several political groups.

The FJP, for its part, declared its "full support" for the Ultras and their "just cause," noting that "none of those who killed their colleagues have been punished."

The statement also denied rumours that the Muslim Brotherhood's young cadres planned to form human chains around the stadium to prevent the match from being disrupted.

Senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Khairat El-Shater also tacitly sided with the ultras' demands.

"Allowing the Super Cup match in the name of preserving the stature of the state is a manipulation of a righteous cause," he said via Twitter on Sunday. "Preserving the stature of the state will be achieved when the real perpetrators of the Port Said massacre are brought to justice."

El-Shater also denounced the headline story of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice newspaper, which in a recent edition described the Ultras as "troublemakers." El-Shater called on the newspaper's editor-in-chief to issue an official apology.

Tahrir Doctors, an informal grouping of physicians devoted to treating injured protesters, also threw its support behind the Ultras' demands and stressed the importance of bringing those responsible for the Port Said disaster to justice. Tahrir Doctors also announced plans to hold a solidarity march with Ultras members on Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Street on Sunday evening.

"We stress the need to take into consideration the feelings of the Ultras youth. We are witnesses that the Ultras' role in the revolution was crucial, and they sought no interests or individual gains," the group stated. "We insist that the Ultras did not originally adopt violence, and the proof of this is that they patiently demanded the state to take retribution against the Port Said killers."

Student members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, too, released a solidarity statement with their Ultras counterparts. The statement supported Ultras' demands to halt the national football league until the Port Said trials are over.

"It has become clear, Mr. Morsi, that those who support the revolution are in favour of cancelling the match, and those who have opposed the revolution are against cancelling it. Which side are you on?" revolutionary group 'Youth for Justice and Freedom' asked in an open letter to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday.

The Egyptian Current party, formed by ex-Muslim Brotherhood youth members, also sided with the Ultras' demands, suggesting that the resumption of football activity before the Port Said perpetrators were punished was an attempt by the "corrupt Mubarak regime figures" who control the football association to distract the Egyptian people from the issue.

Earlier this week, angry Ultras stormed Ahly’s training ground, holding aloft banners rebuking the players for agreeing to play in Sunday’s season curtain-raiser – the first competitive match to be played locally since the Port Said disaster.

They stirred further controversy after invading EFA's Cairo headquarters on Wednesday, threatening to escalate their protests if their demands were not met.

A number of security officers have faced trial since April for alleged responsibility for the Port Said disaster. The Ultras, however, consider the trial a sham and demand that top-level security officials also be held accountable.

The hardcore fan group played a prominent role during the January 25 uprising, and has since become deeply involved in domestic street politics, regularly featuring in demonstrations and confrontations with security forces.

Tension between the Ultras on one side and football and security authorities on the other reached its peak in the wake of February's Port Said stadium tragedy.

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