Egyptian Prosecutor General Tal’at
Abdallah claimed early this week about submission of new evidence in a
trial against 73 people accused of being responsible for the brawl a
year ago in the Suez Canal city of Port Said. However, Al Ahli fans fear
the new evidence will allow the court to postpone its verdict.
Mr. Morsi’s move entitles the families of
the victims who died in the violence erupted in February last year at
the end of a match between Al Ahli and Al Masri SC. Most of the dead
were Al Ahli supporters. It was the worst incident in Egyptian sporting
Hundreds of Al Masri supporters gathered
this week in front of the Port Said prison to ensure that the detained
defendants in the trial, which include officials of the club, would not
be transported to Cairo for the verdict. They said they feared for the
defendants’ lives. Authorities responded by promising to keep the
inmates in Port Said.
That decision was however denounced by Al
Ahli supporters who charged that it proved the interior ministry’s
complicity in last year’s brawl that is widely seen as an attempt that
got out of hand to discipline the militants fans or ultras, who played a
key role in the toppling of Mr. Mubarak, opposition to the subsequent
military rulers who led Egypt to elections that were won by the Muslim
Brotherhood’s Mr. Morsi, and resistance to his recent rushing through of
a controversial constitution.
The Al Ahli militants or ultras said in a
statement that “everyone will see that the numbers that participated
(last Friday) in the (fans’) Tahrir Square march is a very small part of
They said they were organizing
transportation for Al Ahli supporters from across Egypt so that they
could gather on Saturday, a day after the second anniversary of the
protests that toppled Mr. Mubarak, in front of the Police Academy in
Cairo where the court is scheduled to announce its verdict.
The Al Ahli supporters have also in recent
days organized multiple open air multi-media presentations to remind
Egyptians of last year’s incident.
The protests underline Mr. Morsi’s
unsuccessful attempts to woo the ultras, one of Egypt’s largest civic
groups after his ruling Brotherhood, since he was campaigning for the
presidency last summer.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice
Party (FJP) on whose ticket Mr. Morsi was elected declared last year its
"full support" for the ultras and their "just cause.” The FJP expressed
its support noting that "none of those who killed their colleagues (in
Port Said) have been punished."
In separate remarks at the same time on
Twitter, Khairat El-Shater, widely viewed as the power behind Mr.
Morsi’s throne, also came out in favour of the ultras. "Preserving the
stature of the state will be achieved when the real perpetrators of the
Port Said massacre are brought to justice,” said Mr. El-Shater, who
withdrew his candidacy for president in favour of Mr. Morsi after a
court barred him from running. The Brotherhood leader further demanded
that the editor of the FJP’s newspaper apologize for recently describing
the ultras as troublemakers.
Recognizing the Port Said dead as martyrs
was only one of the soccer fans’ demands. Ultras Ahlawy, the Cairo
club’s militant fan group, has vowed to prevent the resumption of
professional soccer as long as justice has not been served in the Port
The ultras have further demanded that
professional soccer remain suspended pending justice for the Port Said
dead. Soccer in Egypt has been suspended since the incident in the Suez
Canal city. They also want the police and security forces, their nemesis
and the most despised institutions in Egypt because of their role in
enforcing the repression of the Mubarak government, to be exempted from
responsibility for security in stadiums; the police and security forces
to be thoroughly reformed; Mubarak era officials to be removed from
soccer boards and an end to corruption in the sport.
The fans are moreover unhappy with the
conditions on which the Egyptian Football Association earlier this month
agreed with the ministers of interior and sport to resume professional
soccer in February. In particular, the fans reject the exclusion of the
public from initial matches at the behest of the interior ministry which
is in charge of the police and security forces. The ministry insisted
that fans be excluded because it fears that clashes with the militants
would further tarnish the image of the police and the security forces.
[James M. Dorsey is a
senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,
co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture,
and the author of The
Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog]