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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Egypt’s football tragedy: clashes between the fans and police turned deadly

Zamalek fans clash with Egyptian police
(Image: Ahram Online)
Sunday’s 8 February football match turned into a deadly violence as at least 20 people were killed during the clashes erupted between the fans and security forces in Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium, where the game of Egyptian Premiere League has taken place. It was the deadliest football incident in Egypt since the tragedy in Port Said in 2012 when 72 football fans were killed during the clashes and dozens were injured.

Clashes reportedly started at the entrance of the Stadium when the crown of Zamalek fans, Ultras White Knights, attempted to enter the stadium without tickets and were prevented from doing it by the security forces. The Ultras reportedly attempted to storm the stadium, so the police have used teargas in order to disperse the huge crowds of fans. Eyewitnesses stressed that some of the fans were using fireworks clashing with the police.

At least 22 people were killed during the clashes and dozens were left injured, according to Egyptian Ministry of Health. Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, official spokesperson of the Health Ministry, has stated that most of the deaths appeared to be result of suffocation and stampede after being tear-gassed by the police. Prosecution also put the number of killed at 22, while Ultras White Knights claim that at least 28 people were killed during the clashes. Later medics reported that the number of casualties exceeded 30.

While Ministry of Interior claims in their official statement that the Zamalek hardcore fans attempted to storm the stadium and damage public property, so the police were forced to use tear gas to disperse them. Zamalek fans failed to follow security and safety procedures required to enter the stadium and the conflict with the police trying to prevent them from entering the stadium without the tickets and storming it turned into deadly clashes. 
Clashes erupted between Zamalek fans and police in Cairo Stadium
(Image: IB Times)

Meanwhile, the Ultras representatives accuse security forces of using excessive force and stress that this “criminal plot” was previously planned, totally disagreeing with the Cabinet’s official statement.

Ultras also claimed that they were tear-gassed by the security forces, while they were surrounded by a barbed wire, with an only one tiny gate opened for them to escape the tear gas. Thus, the stampede started when the police started using teargas, people ran, and many fans were just falling on the ground, when the crown tried to retreat, say eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, despite the deadly clashes and high number of casualties the match was ongoing. Many Egyptian football players later reacted with anger and grief over the deaths of fans and the tragedy on the stadium, as this tragic incident indicates lack of safety and security measures at Egyptian stadiums, what cause terrible outcomes.

Criminal investigation of the case is ongoing, while Egypt’s Football Association has officially suspended the Premiere League and all football activities nationwide for an unidentified period of time. Three days mourning was also announced in the country.

Egypt’s Football Association also declared that it will pay L.E. 500,000 compensation to the families of the killed fans, and every family will receive L.E. 25,000 (with an official number of casualties at 19).