Leading member of Ultras Ahlawy denies charges of deal with Brotherhood

Heba Abdel Sattar, Thursday 21 Feb 2013

In exclusive interview, leading member of Ultras Ahlawy says group has not cut deal with Muslim Brotherhood over explosive Port Said trial, reiterates group's intention to 'escalate' if demands go unmet

Die-hard fans of Ahly football club march to the iconic Tahrir Square to commemorate last year’s death of a fellow supporter, call for justice for the slain Port Said fans, 21 December, 2012 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

In an interview published by Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website on Thursday, a leading member of the 'Ultras Ahlawy' (hardcore fans of Cairo's Ahly football club) – who insisted on anonymity – denied rumours that the group had entered into an unspoken alliance with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Following the recent death sentences handed down against 21 Port Said residents for their role in last year's stadium disaster, rumours surfaced about a possible deal between the government and the Ahly club aimed at calming popular anger.

"I personally oppose the current regime and have taken part in all revolutionary and opposition protests," the Ultras Ahlawy leader said. "What's more, 90 percent of the Ultras are against the Brotherhood."

Also, following recent reports suggesting that the son of leading Brotherhood figure Khairat El-Shater – Saad El-Shater – was a member of the Ultras Ahlawy, the group leader asserted: "There's no truth to any of these rumours."

He went on to direct a message to all Egyptian political factions, stating: "We cannot be used for your political gains; we are opposed to being allied with any political group or faction."

He added: "As a group, we don't hold anything against the current regime and we don't officially oppose it, but we defer to our individual members who have the right to reject him [Morsi]."

The Ultras leader went on to deny that ultras members had ever assaulted other protesters.

At protests last Friday, tensions arose between some ultras and other opposition demonstrators who had converged on the Egyptian Defence Ministry in Cairo. Witnesses say that Ultras members had tried to silence marchers who chanted against President Morsi.

Several women activists at the march, meanwhile, were also reportedly assaulted physically by Ultras members.

"If we had meant to attack any protesters, casualties would have been much greater since our group is much larger," the anonymous Ultras leader said. "But we strenuously reject any attempt to politicise the group or attempt to exploit it for political gains."

He added: "We have not been brotherhoodised."

He went on to say that the group had taken part in the protest to "demand justice from leading military figures who we see as being complicit in the Port Said massacre."

This comes within the context of ongoing protests in Port Said itself, which organisers call a campaign of 'civil disobedience,' now in its fifth day.

The canal cities (Suez, Port Said and Ismailia) have been in a state of unrest since 26 January, when the 21 Port Said residents were sentenced to death for their involvement in last year's football stadium disaster in which 70 Ahly fans were killed. Ensuing clashes in Port Said have resulted in the death of at least 40 people, including security personnel.

The Ultras leader, for his part, denied accusations that the group had allied itself with Muslim Brotherhood politicians and businessmen. Some have accused the group of halting its opposition to the government in return for the harsh verdicts handed down in the Port Said stadium trial.

"If this were the case, we would not have gone out over the past year and chanted against Morsi and against the former ruling military regime and demanded the cancellation of a football match at the Borg El-Arab in Alexandria against the Enpi team in their demand for retribution," he said.

In response to an incident on Sunday in which members of the Ultras Ahlawy attacked members of a visiting youth volleyball team from Port Said, the Ultras Ahlawy leader asserted that the move had been a reaction to his group's refusal to allow any Port Said teams from visiting Cairo.

In conclusion, he said that the group's "fight for justice is ongoing and will escalate until all members police or military who abused the Ultras are tried."

"We will not give up our rights that easily," he added. "We will escalate if needed, as was seen in our 26 January protests commemorating the second anniversary of the 25 January Revolution." 

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