Ahly’s die-hard fans (Ultras Ahlawy) have breathed life into the troubled Egyptian Super Cup after reversing their decision to storm the Egyptian Army Stadium that will host Sunday’s season-opening game between the Red Devils and ENPPI.
The build-up to the match was dominated by fears over potential clashes between the angry fans and security forces after the interior ministry gave the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) the go-ahead to stage the match despite incessant protests by Ultras Ahlawy.
The ardent group of supporters attempted to prevent domestic football resumption until the perpetrators of the Port Said tragedy, Egypt’s worst-ever football disaster which occurred on 1 February, are brought to justice.
However, in a last-ditch move, they announced in the early hours of Sunday that they had retracted their threat to invade the stadium “to avoid bloodshed”.
“The interior ministry is once again doing its dirty work by inciting some Egyptian citizens to attack fellow Egyptians,” Ultras Ahlawy said in a statement on their popular Facebook page, referring to widespread rumours that the ministry planned to hire thugs to attack the fans before they approach the stadium.
“The decision to postpone the Egyptian league is one of our gains, but it’s not our only demand. We refuse to engage in any clashes that might lead to a shedding of blood
“We wholly reject to turn it into a confrontation with fellow citizens … so we announce that we have cancelled tomorrow’s gathering (in Cairo) that was supposed to be followed by a travel to Alexandria,” the statement added.
The EFA has on Saturday postponed the start of the Premier League for one month to ease tensions that boiled over lately, with Ultras Ahlawy storming the association’s headquarters last Wednesday to demand justice for the Port Said victims.
More than 70 fans died when Masry’s supporters confronted Ahly’s vising contingent following the end of an ill-tempered league game on 1 February. A number of Masry fans and security officials are facing trial on charges of premeditated murder and negligence respectively but no one has been convicted so far.
Sunday’s game, which will be held behind closed doors, will be the first competitive match in local competitions since the Port Said disaster forced a seven-month suspension of domestic football activity.
Ahly will miss veteran playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika, who was the only player to be spared the wrath of Ultras Ahlawy after deciding to boycott the match in solidarity with the hardcore supporters.
“When the supporters invaded the Football Association headquarters I felt the Port Said massacre will be repeated," the 33-year-old, a cult figure among Ahly’s faithful, told the club's website.
“Considering the circumstances and to avoid any more damages, I thought it was better not to hold the Super Cup.”
Ahly said they will take a disciplinary action against Abou-Treika following the match, marking the first dispute between the club and the mild-mannered footballer who has steered them to a host of titles since joining from modest club Tersana in 2004.
The Cairo giants are the record holders of the Super Cup, which was launched 2000, with six titles under their belt, four more than bitter rivals Zamalek.
Ahly defeated ENPPI twice in the Super Cup but the petroleum club can take heart from the appointment of Tarek El-Ashry as their new coach.
El-Ashry was in charge of Alexandria-based club Harras El-Hodoud when they claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over Ahly in the Super Cup in 2009.
The 86,000-seat Egyptian Army Stadium, the second biggest in Africa, will host its third match since it was officially opened in 2007. It hosed Egypt’s U-20 World Cup opener against Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 and Ahly’s league game against Ittihad last year.
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