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Wednesday, 27 January 2021

'Many fell as we escaped teargas': Cairo football disaster eye witness

A Zamalek fan tells Ahram Online what he saw at the Air Defense Stadium on Sunday

Mahmoud Elassal , Monday 9 Feb 2015
Zamalek fans stand inside barbed wired cage waiting to enter football match minutes before bloody events unfolded (Photo: Facebook)
Views: 2269
Views: 2269

Zamalek fans, or the Ultras White Knights (UWK), had been looking forward to their team’s match against ENPPI at Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium on Sunday.

Their team had prepared well for the season, even signing on new players. They were leading the Egyptian Premier League team's table with 41 points in total, and for the first time since 2004 looked set to win the Egyptian Premier League trophy, instead of their long-term rival Ahly, also a Cairo team.

Since Wednesday, the interior ministry and the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) had for the first time since February 2012 allowed football fans to attend Egyptian Premier League football games.

In February 2012, 72 Ahly fans died in clashes with rival Masry fans at an Egyptian Premier League game in the Port Said Stadium in the town of Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea. Following the events, the EFA imposed a crowd ban on football matches in Egypt.

Two of last three Egyptian Premier League seasons were also cancelled -- in 2012 after the Port Said deaths, and in 2013 after the political unrest that followed the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.

Only 10,000 supporters were allowed to attend Sunday’s Zamalek match against ENPPI, despite the stadium’s full capacity of 30,000, with 5,000 tickets up for public sale and as many distributed by the club itself, according to the EFA.

Owned by private company Engineering for the Petroleum and Process Industries, ENPPI does not have much of a fan base.

One Zamalek supporter spoke to Ahram Online about what he saw at the Air Defence Stadium on Sunday night, when 19 football fans died and a further 20 were injured as they tried to make their way into the stadium to see the match, according to the health ministry.

The eye witness had bought tickets from the black market in front of the Zamalek club's headquarters, paying 10 EGP more than its ordinary price, to attend the match with his cousins and friends.

"Once we reached the stadium’s entrance, we found more of a crowd than we had expected, and began to walk slowly towards the entrance,” he told Ahram Online.

"People at the front of the crowd near the entrance used fireworks, and the police fired teargas, which forced us to retreat."

"Many young fans began to fall to the ground as we escaped from the teargas."

"As you know, security staff usually divide fans up into those who have first, second and third class tickets once they are inside the stadium, but this time they decided to check our tickets before we could enter. There were people in the crowd without tickets, but that’s normal as they expected to be able to buy tickets near the stadium entrance."

"We decided not to attend the game and set off towards the Ring Road to return home with our tickets, but then some people told us that the gates had opened and that we could attend the game if we had tickets.”

"So we returned to the battle ground, and sneaked into the stadium behind the police forces' backs to watch the game, with no idea about the dozens of deaths."

"Despite having third class tickets, we watched the game from first class seats."

"We didn't know about the deaths during the game, but some people in third class yelled, ‘There are 16 dead, Stop the game!’ then turned their backs on the game.”

“After the game finished, we left the stadium and returned home."

Nineteen dies outside the Air Defence Stadium on Sunday, according to the health ministry. The Ultras White Knights say that up to 28 people died.

Police said they died crushed during a stampede, while the Zamalek supporters said that the incident was premeditated. They blamed new security procedures that included a “metal cage” through which fans were made to walk to reach the stadium’s entrance. Investigations are still ongoing.

All football activities have once again been suspended across the country.     

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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