Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Port Said massacre not forgotten

Meeting for the first time since the deadly 2012 soccer riot, Ahly and Masri played out a hotly contested draw, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Nearly two years after the infamous Port Said massacre that killed 72 fans in a soccer riot that shook Egypt and the world, the two teams met for the first time this week in another league encounter.

The two clubs met on Saturday on neutral ground, in Al-Gouna, behind closed doors. Matches without fans have become the norm in Egyptian football following the unprecedented soccer riot.

The 72 spectators – all Ahly fans – were killed after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters in Port Said following the end of the Premier League game on 1 February 2012.

It was obvious from the start on Saturday that not all was forgotten. The pre-preparations for the game did not go smoothly and many issues regarding the game came up. First, the board members of Cairo giants Ahly refused to travel to attend the game in Al-Gouna, giving various excuses for doing so. They said that some of them were either “really busy” or couldn’t make it to Al-Gouna as the city is far from Cairo and needs about a four-hour drive.

 Whatever the reasons given by the board it was obvious that they wanted to avoid attending the game at all costs especially that Ahly fans are still treating Masry and their fans as the main culprit behind that day of disaster.

There were even reports in the last few weeks that the game might be struck from the fixtures of the league while other reports claimed that Ahly might opt against playing the game even if it meant losing the much needed three points.

At the end it was decided that the game will be played and the Masry board made it clear they were ready to do whatever Ahly wanted from them to ensure the game would be played without any issues of any kind. However, Ahly fans, players and board seemed to pay little attention if any about whatever Masry had to offer.

The massacre is not forgotten and there was no way the game would be played in heart-warming and friendly conditions but at least all parties involved agreed to play the game which was the first step towards moving forward from that gloomy day.

Unfortunately and as was expected things didn’t go great on the field as Ahly players refused to shake hands with Masry players before the game and refused to talk to any of them before the start of the match, according to Masry’s captain Ashour Al-Adham. Al-Adham said that when his teammates tried to talk to Ahly players before and during the early stages of the game or share jokes, they were completely ignored “as if we were dealing with Israeli players”.

Moreover, as the game went on, it got worse and worse as Ahly players started insulting Masry players and swearing at them after any slight altercation, Al-Adham said. He said that the on-field incidents made him extremely depressed because he and his teammates “weren’t treated as Egyptians” in the game.

From the footballing side, the game was in fact thrilling and saw both teams play good football and play for the three points. Masry’s magician Mahmoud Abdel-Hakim scored early in the second half to give his team the lead but Ramadan Sobhi equalised late as the Cairo reds were very close to clinching all three points after they missed some glorious chances in the last few minutes.

With the result, Ahly, who are chasing a ninth successive league title, now have 28 points from 14 games with three games in hand while Masry stand with 21 points and in 13th place with a game in hand.

Zamalek kept their place at the top of the table after a 1-0 win over the Arab Contractors thanks to a brilliant strike from Ayman Hefni while Enppi stayed second after a 1-0 win over Al-Gouna.

If Ahly manage to win their three in hand games that will give them 37 points, three short of Zamalek who reached point number 40.

The league is currently more thrilling than ever thanks to some strong competition both at the top and at the bottom of the league table.

The 2011-2012 league season was, on the other hand, called off after the Port Said tragedy and Masri have been banned from playing on their home soil since, forced instead to hold their home and away games in neighbouring Ismailia.

Twenty-one people, mainly from the coastal city of Port Said, were sentenced to death in 2013 for their role in the killings, but are still on death row.

The verdict sparked riots in Port Said in which dozens were killed after clashes with security forces.

With tensions still running high among both sets of supporters, tight security measures were in place to ensure the match went trouble-free. An Interior Ministry official had said that the game would be called off should tempers flare.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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