“We remind everyone that today’s expression of anger is a normal response to the club’s indifference to the rights of our martyrs,” read a long statement published Thursday night by Al-Ahly Club’s die-hard fans, Ultras Ahlawy UA07, on their official Facebook page. Earlier on Thursday, Hossam El-Badry, the manager of Egypt’s Champions, Ahly, was forced to cancel the training session after “a group of 20 members of Ultras Ahlawy barged into the Mokhtar El-Tetsh stadium to demand the martyrs’ rights,” the club’s official web site stated.
It remains difficult for Egyptian football fans to forget the worst scene ever in the country’s sporting history. On 1 February 2012, thousands of fans of the Cairo-based club headed to the coastal city of Port Said to support their beloved team in a hard tie against rivals Masry. It was an important match – day 17 of the Egyptian Premier League, especially as their opponents were freshly coached by enthusiastic manager Hossam Hassan. Not one of the Ultras ever expected that they would return with over 70 bodies of their dead colleagues. “What happened was not an accident. It was a disaster and if it happened anywhere else, it would stay in people’s memory for years and years. It is not a question of days and then life is back to normal,” the statement continued.
The winners of six CAF Champions League trophies are currently busy preparing for the 2012 season, in which they will take on archrivals Zamalek on 22 July in the second round, having defeated Ghana’s Chelsea 3-2 away last weekend. El-Badry, who succeeds veteran Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, has many tasks on his to-do list: training his players for the new 4-4-2 tactic, coordinating the participation of international players in the upcoming matches with other Egyptian teams, registering new names in the local and the African squads and, of course, bolstering up his team psychologically after their dramatic experience in Port Said disaster.
Masry had surprisingly won 3-1 in an entertaining showdown when, right after the referee’s final whistle, thousands of the host fans invaded the pitch and clashed with Ahly’s fans. Pitch invasions and clashes between fans had become familiar scenes by then, starting with Zamalek and Tunisian club Africain continental match at Cairo Stadium. It was hard to control the masses very effectively following the full collapse of the Interior Ministry during the 25 January uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Some still hold the police responsible for the Port Said massacre though the case is still in court.
Heading news all over the globe, the Masry-Ahly fans’ clashes left more than 70 dead and hundreds seriously injured. All domestic competitions were suspended, the Port Said governor and Security Director were sacked and questioned and the country was officially in mourning for three days.
Although some of the Ahly stars announced their retirement after they had seen tens of bodies and injuries in their dressing room, the Ultras stated that “the players did nothing but shed crocodile tears. Not one of them expressed real sympathy for the martyrs except Mohamed Abou-Treika. The players didn’t even wear mourning armbands; instead, they partied and danced happily on many occasions without any sign of solidarity with their dead fans”. And that was why “We came, with some members of the martyrs’ families to training today – to deliver a message to the club’s board that gives up on our rights. We will never forget the martyrs and if mass demonstration could work, that is the easiest thing for us to do,” the Ultras added, concluding their long statement with a famous quote from Al-Ahly’s icon, former chairman and popular player Saleh Selim; “The Ahly club is owned by those who built it, and its fans are those who built it.”
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