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Sunday, 21 April 2019

Zamalek's Ultras group disbanded by members

The Ultras White Knights' announcement comes a few weeks after the Ultras Ahlawy group took the same decision

Ahram Online , Monday 28 May 2018
Ultras White Knights
File Photo: An Ultras White Knights soccer fan cries during a match between Egyptian Premier League clubs Zamalek and ENPPI at the Air Defense Stadium in a suburb east of Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 8, 2015. (Photo: AP)
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The Ultras White Knights, an group of diehard Zamalek club fans, announced it was disbanding on Sunday, a few weeks after another major Ultras fan group took the same decision.

In a video posted on the group’s official Twitter account, Ultras White Knights members set the group’s banner on fire, a tradition commonly followed around the world when an Ultras group is dissolved.

In a statement published alongside the video, the group members said the body had been founded in 2007 “only to support Zamalek in every sport inside and outside Egypt.”

“Ultras White Knights is a sports group without any political orientation or affiliation whatsoever,” read the group’s statement.

The group said that their official account on Facebook had been hacked months ago by people who have no connection with the group, and said that “nothing that has been published there in this period represents the group in any way.”

"The Ultras White Knights and its members are a part of Egypt, with respect for all state apparatuses. In light of this, we have decided to indefinitely dissolve the group in respect for the rule of law," the statement concluded.

The announcement comes days after the Ultras Ahlawy (UA 07), a fan group supporting Zamalek’s rival Al-Ahly, announced they were also dissolving.

On May 16, the Ultras Ahlawy published a similar statement announcing their self-dissolution, and a video of their flag being burned, and swiftly shut down their official Facebook account.

The decisions to dissolve the groups close the curtain on years of tension between two of the largest Ultras fan groups in Egypt and the state.

Massacres and crowd bans

Since their emergence in Egypt in 2007, Ultras have been involved in numerous clashes with security forces, and have also played a role in political protests and mobilisation, including during the 2011 revolution. 

Hundreds of members of both groups have since been arrested and tried on a variety of charges, including inciting violence.

Ultras groups’ ties with the state saw a major turning point in 2012, when 74 Ahly fans were killed on the pitch after thousands of Al-Masry club fans attacked them after a football match at Port Said stadium. Many Ultras Ahlawy blamed the state for the killings.

As a result of the massacre, fan attendance at most Egyptian league matches was suspended.

Following three years of ban on supporters in Egyptian stadiums, the Egyptian security approved football fans would return to stadiums in February 2015, but on the first game scheduled to see the return of fans attendance, more than 20 Zamalek fans were killed in a stampede after police used tear gas to disperse a crowd attempting to enter the stadium ahead of a league match with ENPPI.

The ban on attendance at local matches was reinstated and remains in place to date.

In May 2015, an Egyptian court banned Ultras groups in the country, based on a lawsuit filed by the chairman of Zamalek football club, Mortada Mansour, calling for the groups to be banned and listed as terrorist organisations.

In 2016, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi proposed initiating a dialogue with Ultras groups, on the fourth anniversary of the Port Said massacre.

El-Sisi’s proposals were welcomed by the hardcore football fan groups but a rapprochement did not result.

 

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