Egypt ministry of interior allows Ahly fans to attend football final

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 24 Oct 2012

Interior ministry to allow 15,000 fans to attend anticipated African Champions League final between Ahly and title-holders Esperance, marking a break with official ban on the faithful after the Port Said massacre

Fans of Egypt's Al-Ahly known as "Ultras" (Photo: Reuters)

The Ministry of Interior has agreed on Wednesday to allow up to 15,000 Ahly fans to attend a football game for the first time since February's Port Said tragedy when the team hosts Tunisia's Esperance in the first-leg of the African Champions League final on 4 November.

The Red Devils have not played any game before their enthusiastic fans since Egypt's worst football tragedy left over 70 supporters killed, with lingering security concerns prompting the Ministry of Interior to impose a crowd ban.

However, the ministry has made a U-turn after Ahly, the record Champions League holders of six titles, qualified for the competition's final.

"The ministry has agreed to allow fans to attend Ahly's Champions League final against Esperance at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium," an interior ministry official said on its official Facebook page.

"We previously agreed to let the fans attend international and African games in Egypt to motivate and stand by the Egyptian teams," the official added.

Only 15,000 Ahly fans and 300 Esperance supporters will be allowed to attend the match, the ministry said.

Zamalek, Ahly's Cairo rivals, were the only team to enjoy fan support since the Port Said tragedy, playing in front of about 3,000 fans during their 1-1 draw with Ghana's Berekum Chelsea in Champions League Group A match last month.

Despite the lifting of the months-long crowd ban, Ahly's die-hard fans (Ultras Ahlawy) are unlikely to show up in Alexandria. They said more than once they would not attend any game unless the perpetrators of the Port Said disaster were brought to justice.

Ahly players have had a tense relationship with their supporters, who accused them of "abandoning the rights of the martyrs" after taking part in an Egypt Super Cup game against ENPPI, which they won 2-1.

The players moved to ease tensions after releasing a statement in which they said they endorsed the demands of Ultras Ahlawy.

Ahly are eyeing their first continental triumph since 2008 while Esperance are seeking to win a second consecutive Champions League title.

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