Six years after Port Said disaster, Egypt has no plan to allow return of spectators

Eslam Omar , Thursday 1 Feb 2018

File Photo
Egyptian crowd have been banned to enter stadiums since Port Said stadium disaster occured 1 February 2012 (File photo: Reuters)

The first of February marks a very dark night in Egyptian football history, when 72 Ahly team supporters died and dozens were severely injured in 2012 in bloody clashes against rival fans from Port Said's Masry following a league game.

Seventy-three defendants, including nine police officers, were charged for involvement in the incident, and after a long process – which caused riots in the coastal city, leaving even more causalities – 10 defendants received final death verdicts last year, while another 25 received between 5 and 15-year prison sentences.

Two successive domestic seasons have been cancelled over security concerns, and the following competitions have been held behind closed doors with a strict ban on spectators in stadiums.

In February 2015, authorities finally allowed a minimal number of spectators to attend a league game, but this shockingly caused another bloody disaster at Cairo's Air Defense Stadium gates, leaving 20 Zamalek fans dead and dozens injured after police tried to bar spectators without tickets from entering the stadium.

While continental competition games held in Egypt saw a limited number of spectators, a full-capacity stadium was approved for the national team's qualifiers to the 2018 World Cup.

Now, after major political changes and four different presidents leading the country in the past six years, the domestic competitions are still being held behind closed doors.

The current sports minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz has announced many times that the country is on the verge of allowing spectators to return to stadiums, but an Egyptian Football Association (EFA) official has stated the opposite on Thursday.

"Not a single procedure has been taken to bring back fans [to stadiums]," EFA board member Karam Kurdy told Egyptian radio this morning, insisting that the "sports and interior ministries must cooperate hand-in-hand with the association and the crowd, otherwise we will wait for too long for spectators return."

With the country preparing for a presidential election in March and terrorist attacks troubling security, Egypt is very unlikely to hold a fan-attended domestic football event this season.

In June, the national team will be competing in the 2018 World Cup in Russia; could this be motivation to move the stagnant water for the next season?

Ahly mark the event
Ahly chairman Mahmoud El-Khatib leads the club's memorial ceremony for the 72 Ahly fans died in Port Said Disaster, 1 February 2017 (Photo: Ahly official website)

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