Angy Essam listens to the Ultras’ side of the Port Said story
The Ultras Ahlawi appeared for the first time in Egypt in 2007. “Our main goal was to unite all fans of Ahli to work all together to provide the ultimate support for the football team,’’ said a member of Ultras who preferred to remain anonymous.
Capo, an Italian word meanings leader, is one of the four founders of the Ahli Ultras. He explained that the Ultras are a miniature of Egypt, representing all the political affiliations in the country. “In the group we have the Salafi, the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberal and the revolutionist,” said Capo. He said the Ultras were not a political group and do not have any general specific political orientation that represents the whole group. “Like all Egyptians, all we want is the realisation of the 25 January Revolution principles,” said Capo, adding that these political participations are optional which means that if some of the members don’t want to participate, “it is up to them”.
The turning, tragic point the Ultras “will never, ever forget” as described by Capo will remain the Port Said massacre in which 74 football fans, mainly Ahli supporters, died in a soccer riot during a league match against Masri in the coastal city of Port Said in February last year. “That black day will always be engraved in our souls, hearts and minds,” said Capo. The most painful moment in any human’s life according to Capo “is when he sees dozens of innocents dying in front of him whose only vice was to love and support their football team truly and deeply.”
Another member in the Ultras who will be referred to as Member B, said that all the events on that day were a series of illogically organised events. The Ultras reached the stadium before the match with about five minutes and no one asked them to show their tickets. “There were very few soldiers which was very strange because Ahli and Masri matches in Port Said need extra security because it is well known that Masri fans are very fanatic,” said Member B. “But the weirdest thing that we have never seen in any match was that after each goal Masri scored [Masri won 3-1 before the onslaught began] their fans went down to celebrate with the players without any interference from the security,” said Member B.
After the match, Member B continued, they found Masri club fans moving towards them holding knives, swords, belts and chairs and began to hit them and Ahli players. “We tried to run away only to find that the door was soldered.” One of the Ultras, Youssef Hamada, left the stadium before the match ended to get some food and when he returned he heard the screams and tried to open the door with a brick in his hand. He succeeded but the door fell on top of him and died. He sacrificed with his life to save the rest. It was an unforgettable day that left 74 martyrs from the best Egyptian youth ever.”
Capo said that the Ministry of Interior, the then ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Masri club fans were the real instigators of the massacre. “The strange absence of the security forces in addition to the severe violence from Masri club fans make us sure that this massacre was a complete and organised conspiracy,” said Capo.
Capo explained the conspiracy theory by citing the participation of some Ultras in the demonstrations and sit- ins which opposed some of the military council’s actions. The beginning of the hostility between the Ultras and the military council was, according to Capo, the killing of their colleague Mohamed Mustafa in the cabinet event on 21 December 2011. He said in response to their friend be killed they escalated in a match directly after his death demanding the fall of the military council. He said in a match just one day before Port Said they waved a banner with Mustafa’s photo and chanted again against the military council.
Capo said the difference between the Ultras and regular citizens is that the group is an influential force that has high credibility “and their actions will have an effect on others.”
Capo added that the day after the massacre they began visiting all the families of those killed, attending funerals in all Egyptian governorates and accepting condolences from mourners. At that time Capo said that Ahli announced that they will not play any match in Port Said for five years. “Also the Ultras and the club announced that the Premier League should stop until all the rights of those killed were met by giving all the criminals who conducted this massacre the sentences they deserve.”
Capo said the Ultras held many demonstrations and peaceful sit-ins “defending the martyrs’ rights. We marched to the prosecutor-general’s office and the Supreme Court and Ahli club demanding quick trials and sentencing of all the criminals.” Member B added that they made special t-shirts and sold it and devoted all the income to the children’s cancer hospital 57357 “as an ongoing alms for the martyrs. We are now building a mosque in Alexandria for the martyrs.”
Capo added that the other demands were first fixing a date for the first session of the trial, to be 17 April, assigning a special court to ensure a fair and quick trial, and transferring the accused security officers including the ex-Port Said security manager to prison. “One of the main demands that we struggled for and was met was for the parliament to certify that the Port Said victims were the revolution’s martyrs,” said Capo.
Capo calculated the total number of Ultras’ demonstrations and sit-ins in 2012 to be around 15 during which they issued 23 declarations which had several demands. “The most urgent demands are to stop the Egyptian Premier League from resuming until the trial ends, ensure fair and quick trials to get back the martyrs’ rights in addition to other political demands,” said Capo. He said the Ultras held a peaceful sit-in for 18 days to transfer the trial and the defendants from Port Said to Cairo to ensure its fairness. He added they had blamed the board of directors of Ahli club because they first announced the season should not start but insisted on playing the Super Cup.
The Ultras also repeatedly asked the board to make special t-shirts with the martyrs’ number for the players to wear, put black armbands and hold memorials for those killed. “After we pressed them, only the first two were fulfilled,” said Capo. On the accusations that the Ultras want to stop the league from starting but continue to support Ahli playing in African and international tournaments, Capo said the league was being played when the massacre happened.
Capo said the Ultras had recently held several peaceful marches and protests in most Egyptian governorates in lieu of the Port Said court verdict on 26 January. “Our main slogan in the group is ‘Forever Together’ and we will always be.”