Al-Ahram Weekly Online   27 September - 3 October 2012
Issue No. 1116
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Fury of the fans

Fed up with what they see as the slow pace of a football trial, fuming Ultras Ahlawy stormed their club's headquarters and a TV satellite complex, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Ultras Ahlawy have abandoned their usual role as cheerleaders to become a football force seeking what they say is justice

Hundreds of Ultras Ahlawy members demonstrated on Tuesday night outside Egypt's Media Production City (located in 6 October City on the capital's outskirts), preventing sports TV presenters from entering the studios of the satellite television stations based inside the complex and coming out on TV.

The Ultras directed their wrath at Ahmed Shobeir and Medhat Shalabi, TV presenters who have been extremely critical of the Ultras, describing them as violent and vandals.

Continuing to oppose the start of the Egyptian domestic football league next month without retribution for those killed in Februaryís league tragedy, dozens of Ahli's die-hard fans, the Ultras Ahlawy, had stormed the clubís headquarter in Nasr City district in Cairo on Sunday.

Hundreds of Ultras Ahlawy laid siege to the club for several hours following the evening training session of the football team, refusing to let the players leave the club. Dozens stormed the club chasing the players.

It was reported that Ahli's right-back Ahmed Sedik was beaten by fans as he tried to exit from the club's gates. Ahli's left-back Sayed Moawad was also assaulted. Ahli star Mohamed Abu Treika, known for his support of the Ultras, and football director Sayed Abdel-Hafez intervened to calm things down and try to resolve the issue. They agreed with the Ultras on a meeting following the team's first-leg crucial away game against Nigerian Sunshine Stars in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final on 4 October.

"Club members fled after some Ultras fans stormed the clubís headquarters during tonightís training session," Ahli said in a statement on their official website.

The Ultras chanted against the players and the club's board as they protested at the failure so far to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Port Said tragedy on 1 February in which 74 football fans -- mostly Ultras Ahlawy fans -- were killed following a league game between Ahli and Masri.

Those accused in the killings are currently on trial but the Ultras are protesting at the failure so far to bring to justice the perpetrators of the stadium riot, demanding that domestic football remain suspended until those behind the disaster are brought to justice.

"We previously announced there will be retribution or chaos," Ultras Ahlawy said on their Facebook page. "We warned of great anger, and you will suffer more. Why should we remain your fans if you let us down without support," the group posted on its status, addressing the players and the Ahli board, criticising their allegedly lackadaisical attitude toward the rights of those who were killed, often referred to as martyrs.

Ahli's football club have been holding their training sessions in Nasr City after their usual venue in Al-Gezira district was invaded by Ultras Ahlawy members early this month. The fans also attacked the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) headquarters in rare extraordinary violence from soccer fans in the country.

For the same reasons, hundreds of Ultras Ahlawy, who along with their arch-rivals Zamalek's Ultras played a leading role in the 25 January Revolution, marched to Alexandria on 9 September and staged a sit-in in front of the players' hotel so as not to let the players reach the stadium to play their first national football game since the Port Said tragedy, the Super Cup. In the fortunately trouble-free affair in Alexandria, a stoppage-time goal gave Ahli a 2-1 Super Cup triumph over 10-man Enppi behind closed doors. Abu Treika boycotted the Super Cup match in solidarity with Ultras demands, which resulted in his suspension from Ahli for two months, and a fine estimated at half a million Egyptian pounds..

At that time, the ruling majority Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, along with other political parties and groups, threw their weight behind Ultras' demand to suspend Egypt's Super Cup until those responsible for the Port Said disaster are brought to justice.

On many occasions, Ahli's group of often overzealous supporters criticised their own club's board for being too indulgent while asking the authorities to punish the culprits of Egypt's worst ever football tragedy.

"Our club's board and players were too lenient in pressuring the authorities into punishing the culprits of the Port Said massacre," an Ultras Ahlawy member told Al-Ahram Weekly.

"What worsened the situation was that they are ready to play the new football league season without the retribution of our martyrs," the Ultra said on condition of anonymity.

Criticism of Ultras Ahlawy began to grow regarding their aggressive attitude, but "no one in Egypt has gone through what the Ultras did. They experienced beatings and murders so no one can judge them unless he went through the same thing," sports critic Alaa Sadek told Al-Ahram Weekly.

"They have the right to express their anger if retribution for their martyrs has not been met. The Port Said tragedy has two crimes, a criminal offense and a sports one. The criminal is still under judicial investigation.

"As for the sports crime, Masri club and its board, and EFA officials should be blamed for the Port Said tragedy but none were punished so far," Sadek, known for his stinging critique of the EFA, added.

In order to relieve the stress, the Ahli football team started a closed camp Monday in Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria amid preparations for the CAF Champions League semi finals against Nigerian side Sunshine Stars. The six-time African champions are scheduled to play two friendlies in the camp against Olympic on Tuesday and Smouha on Saturday.

Earlier, the EFA announced the start of the new football national league season would be 17 October after the previous edition was called off in the wake of the Port Said tragedy. The new season was first scheduled on 17 September but was postponed for a month following the Ultras' pressure.

"Egyptian sports, like the media, are still full of felool (remnants) of the old regime and filled with corruption," Sadek said. "The revolution unfortunately did not affect either."

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