Hooliganism threatens Egyptian football post-revolution

Eslam Omar, Sunday 19 Jun 2011

The Egyptian Premier League resumes Monday amidst fears of rioting, which has been on the upsurge since the revolution

Zamalek vs Club Africain

The Egyptian Premier League resumes on Monday, 20 June amidst concerns by the football officials and security about fans rioting.

On Thursday the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) imposed a fine a 20,000 LE fine on Ittihad of Alexandria and banned fans from attending the next game as punishment after their fans invaded the pitch and attacked the referee and both teams’ players during their game against Wadi Degla on Wednesday.   

The rumour spread widely that the EFA was considering cancelling this season of the Egyptian Premier League due to security concerns.

“Cancelling the tournament is not acceptable at all, and football officials must quit making the fans angry,” said their football director Ibrahim Hassan on the Zamalek official website. Hassan decided last week to give announcements only during the match’s press conferences.

Zamalek is leading the league table, racing for their first title since 2004.

“Sports TV media is to blame for the hooliganism, alongside football officials’ inflammatory announcements,” sports analyst, Khaled Bayoumi commented to Ahram Online, adding that “We should stop dealing with the problem emotionally and apply the law decisively against all parties, whether it be the media, football officials or fans who is at fault.”

The domestic competition was paused for around three months following the 18-day demonstrations that ousted Egypt’s former president Mubarak. It’s the same reasons that forced the EFA to cancel the Egypt Cup this year.

The league cancelling rumour spread in the same week that EFA announced that they won’t bid to host the 2013 African Cup of Nations to replace Libya, who suffers an unstable security situation resulting from the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

Some think that this was just a reaction to ease the public tension after disqualifying for the 2012 Ghenia and Gabon finals with a goalless draw with South Africa that forced the three-successive-champion Coach Hassan Shehata to sadly end his leadership.

“Like any Egyptian I hoped to help my country earn that honour, but we are effectively out of the competition because we hosted the tournament in 2006,” EFA Vice President Hany Abou-Reida said.

The Ittihad-Degle scene was just another episode of the surprising riots in the Egyptian stadium that were first triggered during Zamalek and Tunisian Club Africain match in round 32 of the African Champions League as hundreds of angry fans fully invaded the pitch during stoppage time, attacking Tunisian players and the referee, who was forced to cancel the game.

The series continued at Cairo Stadium with a firecracker stake hurt a Zambia ZESCO player during Ahly’s clash in round 16 of the continental tournament.

The Egyptian interior ministry, who has yet to come back in full force after the revolution, threatened twice to cancel the league if trouble continues to mar domestic matches before confirming that they are fully responsible for securing the domestic league.

All eyes are on the Cairo derby this June between Ahly and Zamalek, which will apparently be the competition’s decider as the arch-rivals are level with 49 points each, till round 25. Fears are high of riots breaking among fraught fans and especially against police officers, who were antagonised by the Ultras White Knights and Ultras Ahlawy, especially after 25 January.

“Rioting in sport matches can really be very dangerous and harmful for Egypt, even more so than the sectarian strife” Khaled Bayoumi concluded.

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