Football fans reject security presence at stadiums

Joel Gulhane
4 Min Read
Al-Ahly supporters stoke up the atmosphere before a game. (AFP File Photo)
Al-Ahly supporters stoke up the atmosphere before a game. (AFP Photo)
Al-Ahly supporters stoke up the atmosphere before a game.
(AFP File Photo)

A coalition of seven “ultras” football fan groups have announced they will protest on 15 March outside their clubs to reject security forces barring them from attending matches.

The Ministry of Interior has deemed it necessary for police and security forces to be present at football matches, which has prompted some violent clashes with fans.

The Ultras Ahlawy, Devils (Al-Ahly), White Knights (Al-Zamalek), Green Magic (Al-Ittihad Al-Sakandary), Yellow Dragons (Ismaily) and Whales (Ghazl Al-Mahalla) said in their joint statement that games would be peaceful if the security forces were not in the stands.

Speaking directly to the Ministry of Interior the coalition said, “The [stadium] is no longer viable for us both, it is either us or you.” They added, “because football is for the fans alone, and not for the enjoyment of the interior [ministry] we announce the stands no longer belong to you, and you will not be welcome again. The stands are for the audience, football fans, all the fans, and it is our right.”

Last week the Ultras White Knights were dispersed with tear gas after attempting to attend an African Champions League match they had been barred from. The decision to play that game behind closed doors was a response to violent scenes between Al-Ahly fans and police at a match a few days earlier.

Egyptian Premier League matches have been held behind closed doors since a riot in Port Said in 2011 that resulted in the deaths of 74 Al-Ahly fans.

The joint statement was signed by fans of rival teams, most notably the two Cairo-based teams, Al-Ahly and Zamalek.

“Yes we are rivals, and we will be, but we are talking about the rights for football fans,” said a leading member of the White Knights, who spoke to Daily News Egypt on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not about the colours.”

“They [security forces] say they want to protect us but they can’t,” he said. “They don’t think about the problem or the reasons for the problem; they just want to stop us from entering the stadium.”

He believes the Ministry of Interior is concerned about allowing an organised group of young men to gather in one place, saying, “They want us to keep our mouths shut and prevent us from feeling free in our place, the stadium.”

The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior confirmed that the ministry had attempted to reach out to the ultras in the past, but did not elaborate further.

The White Knights leader also confirmed that the ministry had held discussions with some groups of ultras but said, “They do not tell the truth.” The last engagement was approximately two months ago where the ultras gave the ministry recommendations and a plan, he said.

“They didn’t take it seriously,” the White Knights leader said. “They make empty promises; these are only words and there is never action.”

There is a history of animosity between the ultras groups and the security forces, often clashing during or after football matches. Ultras members were also known to be on the frontlines in fighting with the police during the 25 January Revolution.

“As a football fan, the first thing I want to do is be inside the stadium supporting my team, and not have to watch it on television,” said the White Knights leader. “This is not just for ultras; it is for all fans and we all have the right.”

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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane