Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1281, (4 - 10 February 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1281, (4 - 10 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Bridging the gap

President Al-Sisi has reproached the Ultras football fans but is calling for a new investigation into the 2012 Port Said massacre, reports Inas Mazhar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In a TV phone-in, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said the Ultras had become “a real problem” following a protest by the often-violent football supporters.

The president made his comments on the satellite TV show “Al-Qahira Al-Youm”, presented by Amr Adib. Adib was referring to Monday’s incident at a training session in Ahly Club when thousands of Ultras took to the stadium stands, not to cheer on the team but to chant slogans against the Egyptian army, its former defence minister and the police.

It was not the first time Ahly Ultras have offended the army and its leaders in public. As a result, the army has banned Ahly from playing on any of its grounds, blaming the club’s management for the unruly behaviour of the team’s fans.

Ahly has thus had to play its matches in Petrosport Stadium, not a suitable venue for the team once voted the “African club of the century”. It was only after the club’s football director, Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafei, apologised to the army at a press conference that the military relented and allowed the club to play at the better Borg Al-Arab Stadium. But Ahly’s board chairman Mahmoud Taher later criticised Abdel-Shafei’s apology, derailing the relationship all over again.

The Ultras still blame the army for the death of 72 mostly Ahly spectators in the Port Said soccer riot of 2012. Monday 1 February marked the fourth anniversary of the catastrophe, which happened following a national league match between Ahly and the Port Said home team Masri. At that time the military, headed by Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, was managing the country following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as president. Al-Sisi was then head of military intelligence.

“I have never been angry with anybody but I really feel sorry for the situation we have reached in this country,” Al-Sisi said on TV.

“We should have faced such a phenomenon, just like other issues. We didn’t pay attention to [TV sports show host] Ahmed Shobeir when he revealed the Ultras when they started appearing. We should have noticed but we didn’t and therefore didn’t deal with it. Now, we need to face this problem, just like the many other problems we have these days.”

He continued, “We are all responsible for the blood of Egyptians. The Ultras should not only think about their brothers in the Ultras but all Egyptians everywhere. I call on those youths to participate in a new committee whose objective it will be to again investigate the Port Said disaster.”

Al-Sisi told TV viewers, “We have no secrets. Come and share with us what we have done so far and see what you want to do. Investigate it but be aware that when large numbers are involved, so many facts are lost and many rumours are spread.

“I was there at that time and there is nothing that confirms what really happened. Maybe some facts are unknown or are hidden. There are many possibilities but nothing is sure.”

Al-Sisi said that in gatherings that involve huge numbers of people it is difficult to reach the truth, “as happened in 2011 in Mohamed Mahmoud, Maspero and the Tahrir complex, etc. In such gatherings, many facts are lost and the image and pictures we see are different from the details”.

Al-Sisi was referring to flashpoints that saw deadly violence after Mubarak stepped down in the wake of a nationwide revolt.

He said he was not trying to put all the blame on youth, adding that he had children of his own. “The problem is that we are the ones who are unable to reach out to youths and communicate with them. We are unable to find room for understanding between us,” Al-Sisi said. He added that he was making an effort to bridge the divide but that it would take time until mutual trust is reached.

Al-Sisi said Egypt was facing many serious problems, “all 50 years old, since 1967, when Egypt started deteriorating in several sectors”.

He said Egypt was about to fall in 2011, and added, “The nation was in ruins. But my big hope is that, with God’s help, we will overcome all this.

We will make it up and advance because I am sure we all have sincere, honest and good intentions.”

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