Hardcore Ahly fans, the Ultras Ahlawy, declared their insistence on attending the anticipated clash with Ismaily on day 7 of the Egyptian Premier League – in spite of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA)’s decision to punish the team for recent fan riots by making it play behind closed doors.
“We confirmed during the Dakhliya game that we are going to attend the Ismaily match. And we will attend,” reads a statement by the Ultras Ahlawy-UA07 Facebook page, which boasts more than 255,000 members.
The fans emphasized that they wanted to deliver a message to “all remnants of the ousted regime” that they would not obey their “manipulated regime.”
“It’s obvious that this association [the EFA], which is controlled by remnants of the former regime, is biased in applying the regulations. There is no reason to punish the spectators. We didn’t ruin any stadiums or riot against anybody,” the Ultras stated.
The EFA board of directors under Chairman Samir Zaher, who was elected during the Mubarak era, has vowed to punish anyone who sets off fireworks or uses bad language in the stands.
“We’ll say it again: We, Ultras Ahlawy, will attend the match because the punishment is illegal – and we call on all Ahly supporters to come too,” the Ultras declared.
“We’re going to attend in order to support our beloved team, not to riot. So we ask officials of the corrupt regime to revise their decision. All they do is work for their personal interests and steal the clubs’ money,” the controversial group added.
The newfound interest in politics among football fans was first sparked by Egypt’s 18-day uprising in January that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster. During the uprising, Ahly and Zamalek fans – the Ultras Ahlawy and the White Knights – played a major role in defending Tahrir Square revolutionaries from the depredations of government-hired thugs.
“The issue is bigger than football. We want to settle the score with remnants of the former regime, under the leadership of Samir Zaher, and their oppression of Egyptian youth,” the Ultras’ statement concluded.
The EFA is expected to respond to the issue soon as security in the country remains unstable since the 28 January collapse of the interior ministry, which is also deeply unpopular among many football supporters.
Ahly’s win over Kima Aswan in a low-key Egypt Cup game in September turned sour towards the final whistle when hundreds of fans were involved in clashes with security personnel, who continued to chase the die-hard supporters outside Cairo Stadium and beat a number of them.
The Red Devils are currently first in the league table with 14 points, 4 before archrivals Zamalek who are in fifth place.