In rare sign of unity, Ultras of Ahly, Zamalek call for immediate lifting of crowd ban

Hatem Maher , Friday 27 Nov 2015

Ultras White Knights
Ultras White Knights during a youth Handball game against arch-rivals Ahly (Photo: Ultras White Knights Facebook page)

Hardcore fan groups of Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek put aside their animosity to call for the immediate lifting of crowd ban in Egyptian football after attending a youth handball game with minimal security presence on Thursday.

Ultras Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights, who are normally at odds, released a joint statement to reiterate that security problems were never theirs, posting pictures of both sections of white and red-clad fans cheering their respective sides in an U-17 handball affair.

"Today, at Ahly's Abdullah bin Faisal court, the fans decided to teach an effective lesson [to authorities]. Everyone witnessed the presence of the largest sets of fans with few metres separating them and not a single problem occurred although there wasn't any security," both groups said on their Facebook pages.

"We always insisted that the problem did not lie with fans and we proved that more than once. Every time the fans take responsibility of their own safety, things pass very smoothly.

"The state and its institutions hold repeated meetings to find a solution, although this solution is clear to everybody."

Both groups were victims of a combination of lax security and negligence that led to two disasters in three years.

An intermittent crowd ban has been in place since over 70 Ahly fans were killed in the coastal city of Port Said after they were attacked by rival Masry fans following the end of an ill-tempered Egyptian Premier League clash in February 2012.

That ban was partially lifted in February this year but another disaster occurred on the first game to receive spectators, with more than 20 Zamalek supporters killed in a stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces just before the start of a league match against ENPPI at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium.

"After what happened today, having proved that the problem was never the fans', it's only natural that fans immediately return to the stands without any further delay," added Ultras Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights.

"The fans trust themselves and their ability to organize themselves. It's not our fault that some parties are not able to carry out their duties," they added in a reference to security officials.

Egypt's sports minister said more than once that he would do his best to help facilitate the lifting of the crowd ban but the interior ministry is yet to give him the green light despite many meetings involving all relevant parties.

The crowd ban no longer exists in the games of the Egyptian national team, who played before thousands of fans when they crushed Chad 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Alexandria earlier this month to qualify for the final group phase as they eye a place in the 2018 Russia finals for the first time since 1990.

It is not yet clear whether a new system will be put in place for the return of fans, with the Egyptian prosecution asking for many new security measures to be implemented to avoid another catastrophe following the February disaster at the army-owned Air Defence Stadium.

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