UPDATE 5: At least 74 fans die in football clashes in Port Said
At least 74 Ahly and Masry fans die and hundreds wounded following riots at the end of Wednesday's Egyptian Premier League game in Port Said
Hatem Maher and Mohamad Mosselhi, Wednesday 1 Feb 2012
The Egyptian health ministry has announced that more than 74 supporters were killed after thousands of Masry fans invaded the pitch following the team’s 3-1 Egyptian Premier League victory over Ahly on Wednesday.
"There are 11 deaths at my hospital. Two other hospitals have 25 deaths. Three fans have also died in the stadium," Medhat El-Esnawy, the manager of Port Said's El-Amiry hospital, said in a television interview.
“Some died in the stampede and others died of suffocation.and some have head injuries”
Egyptian Football Association (EFA) chairman Samir Zaher announced the league had been postponed for an indefinite period in the wake of the deadly clashes. Cairo duo Ahly and Zamalek have frozen sports activities in mourning.
Ahly’s panicked players flooded the club’s in-house television channel with phone calls to speak about the post-match horror and call on authorities to intervene and protect them.
“The security forces left us, they did not protect us. One fan has just died in the dressing room in front of me,” veteran playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika screamed during a phone call with the club’s channel.
“People have died, we are seeing corpses now. There are no security forces or army personnel to protect us,” attacking midfielder Mohamed Barakat added.
“It is our fault because we played that match. The authorities are afraid to cancel the league because they just care about money, they do not care about the lives of people.”
Thousands of Masry fans stormed the pitch immediately after the final whistle, chasing Ahly players and technical staff members, who ran for their lives. They subsequently clashed with Ahly’s visiting supporters as the melee escalated.
Later in the day, Zamalek’s league game against Ismaily in Cairo was called off following the end of the first half upon the request of both teams.
The outer part of one of Cairo Stadium’s four stands caught fire after an electrical short circuit. Fire brigade trucks rushed to the scene to extinguish the fire.
“We are in a catastrophe. We had to show solidarity with the fans of Ahly and Masry,” Zamalek coach Hassan Shehata said.
Alexandria-based clubs Ittihad and Smouha announced their withdrawal from the league competition. Many TV analysts have also called on authorities to suspend football activities in the reeling country.
An army official said two military aircrafts flew to Port Said to pick Ahly fans and players.
“We offer our condolences for the families of all victims. Securing the match was the responsibility of the interior ministry,” Ismail Etman, the deputy of the Chief of Staff, said in a television interview.
“The army wanted to avoid any confrontation with the Egyptian people,” he added.
English Premier League club Liverpool expressed condolences for the deaths of the Egyptian football fans.
“Following the sad news from Port Said we'd like to send our condolences to all in Egypt affected by this tragic event. You are in our thoughts tonight,” the Reds said on their official Facebook page.
Football riots have abounded in Egypt following last year’s revolution which toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. Tensions notably rose between the football die-hard supporters and security forces.
Many pitch and stadium invasions have occurred since then despite the EFA’s regular assertions that it would clamp down on disorder, the latest of which was in Ismaily’s goalless draw at home to Masry last week.
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