Saturday 21 October 2017

Egypt cancels football after dozens die in match crush

A bereaved father grieves for his dead sons at the Zynhom morgue in Cairo
A bereaved father grieves for his dead sons at the Zynhom morgue in Cairo
Bereaved friends and family check for names at the Zynhom morgue in Cairo
Family and friends, of fans killed in clashes with police at Cairo stadium, wait outside Zeinhom morgue in Cairo

Erica Estevez

The Egyptian authorities have suspended football league matches indefinitely after at least 24 fans were killed in clashes with police at a Cairo stadium.

The Egyptian authorities have suspended football league matches indefinitely after at least 24 fans were killed in clashes with police at a Cairo stadium.

People were crushed in a stampede after police fired tear gas at supporters of Zamalek, who were trying to gain entry to a match against city rivals ENPPI.

The fans blamed police for forcing them through a narrow, fenced-in passageway.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has expressed "great sorrow" over the deaths and promised an investigation.

The Egyptian Premier League was last suspended in February 2012 after 74 fans were killed in a riot at a match in Port Said.

The league resumed the following year, but supporters were banned from attending matches until last December. Since then, limited numbers have been allowed into stadiums.

There's a history of tension and animosity between the security forces and hardcore football fans - many of whom were involved in the 2011 revolution.

There are fears of further clashes in the days ahead.

The deaths of the fans has revived scrutiny of police tactics in Egypt less than a month after a woman was shot dead during the dispersal of a peaceful protest marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

Despite the deaths, the match - between Cairo-based clubs Zemalek and ENPPI - went on, further fuelling criticism of insensitivity by authorities.

One Zemalek player who refused to play in solidarity with the dead, Omar Gaber, was disciplined with a suspension, according to media reports.

Fans at the match appeared aware of the deaths, chanting, "We either win retribution for them or die like they did."

Egypt's public prosecutor ordered an investigation of the violence.

Authorities said it was sparked when hardcore Zamalek fans known as Ultras White Knights tried to force their way into the stadium without tickets.

Violence

Yesterday, pro-government media and the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, sought to deflect blame from the security forces.

One TV commentator, Ahmed Moussa, called the victims "thugs" who were breaking the law.

Others on TV talk shows accused the government's top rival, the Muslim Brotherhood, of causing the violence.

The president of the Zamalek club, Mortada Mansour, echoed that idea, telling one private television station that the violence was "orchestrated" to taint upcoming parliamentary elections.

Irish Independent

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