By Salama A Salama
What happened in Port Said was not your average, garden variety, football hooliganism. It was something much more fearsome, on par perhaps with the Citadel Massacre, when Mohamed Ali killed dozens of Mamluk chieftains to be able to rule unopposed.
The host team, Al-Masri, won the match 3-1, and yet its fans assaulted those of the guest team with vengeance, killing 74 and wounding 318, according to official reports. The carnage was said to be in response to an offensive banner, allegedly held high by Al-Ahli fans in the stands. The banner read: "Port Said has no real men, only sacks of old clothes."
So bloody was the incident and so fierce was the venom -- so primordial was the zeal -- that within less than an hour a football pitch had turned into a killing zone, strewn with dying victims.
Al-Masri fans have been known to hold grudges, but no one would have thought that things would go this far. The nation watched in horror as Al-Masri fans ran riot, attacking Al-Ahli's team and fans with clubs and machetes.
Port Said has a long history of football hooliganism. Even I, a man with limited football knowledge, know that every match held in Port Said must be tightly guarded by the police. So it was utterly odd for this particular match to be held in Port Said when other venues would have been safer.
To make things worse, neither the Port Said governor nor his chief of security were at the scene, which alone are grounds for prosecution. The football managers of both clubs also bear part of the responsibility, for they should have known the risks involved.
Many blame the police and the security services, saying that they should have intervened to stop the rioting. But once football fans run riot, no one, not even the best-trained anti- riot police, can stop them.
There is a lot of violence in our streets. In the last few days, banks were robbed, armoured vehicles transporting currency hijacked, and a variety of other armed robberies took place.
The surge in crime mirrors the country's political chaos. In a situation where protesters keep chasing the police out of the streets, law and order will suffer. Dozens of hardened criminals and petty thieves have taken to the streets, bullying members of the public and paving the way for a "fifth column" to sabotage the country.
A few days ago, a microbus driver was shot dead in an altercation on Gameat Al-Dowwal Al-Arabia Street. Immediately afterward, other microbus drivers got together and cut off this main artery in the heart of Cairo, for several hours. So who can blame the football fan societies, known as the "Ultras," when they start acting like organised militia?
In another incident, crowds of revolutionary youths clashed with Muslim Brotherhood youths who were guarding the People's Assembly. The former had threatened to attack the parliamentarians, claiming that the "legitimacy of Tahrir" was superior to the "legitimacy of the parliament".
We need to do something about the unrestrained chaos in our streets. We need to do something about the lingering resentment among the public. One thing that must be done is to bring all culprits to speedy trial.
We cannot blame the former regime for everything that goes wrong. If the former regime is so powerful, if one year after its overthrow it can ignite street battles at will, then what hope do we have left? If the deposed regime is so manifestly intent and efficient, then what hope do we have of the ruling military council handing over power smoothly to civilians?