Thousands of Ultras Ahlawy call for crowd return to Egypt football matches

Mahmoud Elassal , Monday 20 Jul 2015

In a rally at home, Ahly fans say they are ready to return to stands at Saturday game against Tunisian Etoile du Sahel after a 3 1/2 year ban; offer to help secure matches

Ultras Ahlawy
Ultras Ahlawy rally at club on Sunday - "Fans Return...At Tunisian Etoile Game" (Photo: Facebook)

After Sunday's well organised gathering in the club's headquarter, Ahly's hardcore fans - Ultras Ahlawy - called for crowd attendance starting from the game against Tunisian team Etoile du Sahel in the CAF Confederation Cup next week.

An official ban was issued by the Egyptian government following the Port Said stadium massacre in February 2012, which killed 74. The ban has prevented audience attendance at all league matches for over three years.

Thousands of Ultras Ahlawy members gathered in Ahly's headquarters on Sunday to watch the last training session for the team during preparations for the Cairo derby clash against Zamalek in the Egyptian Premier League.

The hardcore Ahly supporters carried a banner asking for a return of fan attendance starting from the Etoile du Sahel game.

The attendance ban was lifted briefly in February of this year, but the first fan-attended game ended violently and 20 Zamalek fans were killed outside the Air Defence stadium.

All football activities in Egypt have since been played behind closed doors.

On their official Facebook page, Ultras Ahlawy asked Egypt's authorities to reconsider lifting the crowd ban, saying their performance at Ahly Club on Sunday showed ability to restrain.

They also stated that they are ready to meet all the security demands in order to save a place in the stadium for the game against Etoile du Sahel in the CAF Confederation Cup.

"We ask to attend the Etoile du Sahel game in the CAF Confederation Cup as we are ready to meet all the security rules, like submission to physical inspection, due to the current unrest in the country," read the Ultars Ahlawy statement.

"We are also ready to support the club's security in organising the fans' entrance to stadiums, as we already do in the club's practice sessions as well as the friendly games," the statement added.

Ahly fans made their last appearance in the stadium during official games in the CAF Confederation Cup final last December two months before the Air Defence massacre.

Zamalek's Mansour complains

Zamalek chairman Mortada Mansour announced that he lodged a complaint with the prosecutor-general against Ahly president Mahmoud Taher, accusing him of hosting a terrorist group when he allowed Ultras Ahlawy to attend the team's training ahead of Cairo derby clash.

The Red Devils opened the club's gates on Sunday morning for their fans to support the team during their last training session ahead of Tuesday's crunch showdown against Zamalek.

Hardcore Ahly fans chanted against Mansour during their rally in the club's headquarters.

On Sunday evening, the Zamalek chairman lambasted his Ahly's counterpart for allowing fan attendance despite crowd ban.

"Ahly management invited a banned terrorist group to insult me," Mansour told a television sports programme.

Last May, an Egyptian court banned the hardcore football fan groups known as Ultras which support several of the country’s teams.

The chairman of Zamalek football club, Mortada Mansour, filed a case calling for the groups to be banned and listed as terrorist groups.

The case was rejected by a lower Court of Urgent Matters as falling outside its jurisdiction but the Appeals Court of Urgent Matters overturned the initial ruling.

Ultras groups have maintained a tense relationship with the authorities over the past several years on and off the field, triggered by their involvement in anti-government protests since the popular revolt of 2011.

"On Tuesday I will lodge a complaint against Taher as he sponsors a terrorist group," Mansour added.

Zamalek are one point away from the Egyptian Premier League title triumph, as they are leading the teams' table with 83 points, nine over rivals Ahly.

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