One dies in Port Said clashes between army, Masry fans

Hatem Maher, Friday 23 Mar 2012

A 13-year-old boy dies as sanctions on Masry club for February’s football disaster spark anger, with clashes erupting in Port Said and Ahly’s hard-core fan group Ultras Ahlawy heightening threats of retaliation

Blood is seen on a chair one day after supporters clashed at Port Said Stadium (Photo: Reuters)

A 13-year-old boy was shot dead after clashes erupted in Port Said between Masry’s angry fans and army forces in the early hours of Saturday after the club were handed a two-season ban by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA).

The boy was rushed to the Port Said hospital after he was shot in the back but attempts by medics to resuscitate him failed. Dozens were injured as the army tried to prevent angry football supporters from storming the Suez Canal.

Port Said-based club Masry were banned for two seasons on Friday following last month’s football disaster which sent shockwaves across Egypt, the EFA announced.

The EFA also revealed that Port Said Stadium, which witnessed the deadly clashes between the die-hard supporters of Masry and Ahly, would be closed for three years.

At least 74 fans died and hundreds injured when thousands of Masry fans stormed the pitch to confront Ahly’s visiting contingent following the end of an ill-tempered Egyptian Premier League game on the first of February.

The EFA said in a statement that Masry’s football activities would be suspended for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. The club will be reinstated to the Premier League in the 2013/14 season.

However, given that this season’s league competition was called off in the wake of the tragedy, Masry will effectively miss only one season, a punishment that enraged Cairo giants Ahly who deemed it too lenient.

Egypt’s most popular side said their board of directors will hold an emergency meeting on Monday “to discuss the EFA’s decisions and take the appropriate measures that shall preserve the rights of the club and their fans.”

“There will be some surprises on Monday. We will take a stance against those sanctions which satisfy nobody. We expected far tougher punishments after the suffering of our fans,” Ahly’s chief executive Mahmoud Allam said.

“The decisions which will be taken by the board of directors will show how much we care about our supporters.”

Ahly punished, Ultras furious

Despite the wide sympathy Ahly gained following the tragic incident, which sparked an outcry in a country struggling to restore order following the 2011 January revolution, they have not escaped punishment.

The Red Devils were ordered to play four matches behind closed doors and had Portuguese coach Manuel Jose suspended for as many games. Midfielder Hossam Ghaly was also given a four-match ban and fined EGP 5,000 after remonstrating with the referee few minutes before the disaster.

“Ahly will have to play without their fans for four games after they repeatedly threw firecrackers onto the pitch and unfurled banners insulting the opposing side,” the EFA said in a statement on its official website.

The EFA decisions did not go down well with Ahly’s hardcore supporters (Ultras Ahlawy), as many of whom have marched to the EFA headquarters in Cairo’s Al-Jazeera district immediately following the announcement.

They also issued a strongly-worded statement, threatening to retaliate if “justice is not done".

“If our silence led some people to think that we are weak … then the following words are directed to them. From now on, we will be out of our mind,” the group said on its official Facebook page.

“You can call us thugs, you can call us crazy, but we will be crazy to regain our rights, either through legal avenues or with our bare hands. We are ready to die for our rights; we are ready to add to the toll of 74 deaths.

“Accordingly, our demands are as follows. A swift trial for all who committed or incited that crime … Masry must be relegated and their sports activities suspended for three years, otherwise if any team representing them go out of Port Said (to take part in a competition), they will only have to blame themselves.

“Thirdly, the Egyptian Premier League must not resume unless we regain the rights of all martyrs. We have nothing to do with the lower divisions though.”

The group also said its members will begin a sit-in in front of the EFA headquarters on Sunday.

Seventy-five people, including nine security officials in Port Said, were referred to the criminal court earlier this month to face trial over the tragedy. Many Masry fans are charged with premeditated murder while security officers are accused of negligence.

Ultras Ahlawy held several marches to pressure Egyptian authorities into punishing the culprits. They vowed not to cool off unless their demands are fulfilled.

Clashes in Port Said

Clashes briefly erupted in Port Said between angry supporters and army forces commissioned to protect the Suez Canal. The army fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd who tried to break into the canal.

Fearing the anger of the supporters, shop owners in the coastal city shuttered their businesses in the early hours of Saturday, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language portal.

Ultras Green Eagles, who represent Masry’s die-hard fans, accused Egypt’s military rulers of sowing strife between Port Said and Cairo.

“Congratulations to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, they succeeded in driving a wedge between the two cities. They are now watching the play they wrote,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.

“Football should go to hell if all people decided to put their minds aside. Something suspicious is happening in front of the Suez Canal, there is no presence of the police or army.

“The matter has escalated there. We retreated once we saw some suspicious things happening,” the statement added.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online sports on Twitter: @AO Sports)

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