Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Powerhouses reeling

Arch-rival football giants Ahly and Zamalek this week were set on the back of their heels, reports Abeer Anwar

Ahly players celebrate after scoring

Egypt’s High State Security Prosecution on Sunday ordered the detention of four members of hardcore Ahly Ultras fans for 15 days pending an investigation into clashes that erupted on Tuesday at Cairo Stadium during an African Champions League game.

The clashes occurred during the Red Devils African contender against Gabon’s C.F. Mounana in Africa’s Champions League competition in scenes reminiscent of the Ultras past violent tendencies. The flare-up will probably hinder even more the efforts by the country’s football authorities to allow fans back into stadiums following a virtual ban for the past six years.

Ahly and Mounana fans hoisted chairs menacingly in the air and lit flares at the match even though the game ended with Ahly winning 4-0. 

Some in the media blamed the clashes – which included spectators battling security forces at Cairo Stadium – on the Ahly Ultras who were quoted on their Facebook account that it was an “irresponsible minority” behind the violence.

The four Ultras members are facing charges of using force, inciting riots and violence, destruction of public property and possessing weapons and explosives.

Security forces said the number of fans that entered Cairo Stadium during the game exceeded the limit for the number of spectators allowed to attend which was 5,000.

Violence in the stands of the Cairo Stadium

Football fans have been banned from domestic league games in Egypt since February 2012 when over 70 Ahly supporters died in deadly clashes at Port Said Stadium.

The ban was briefly lifted in January 2015 but was immediately re-imposed after 20 Zamalek fans died in a stampede when police used tear gas to disperse crowds lined up to attend an Egyptian league game against Enppi.

In the past five years, authorities have permitted a limited number of fans to attend African games and national team matches, as per FIFA rules.

Although Ahly fans, including Mahmoud Al-Khatib, Ahly’s newly elected president, had hoped that the Mounana match would be the start of a lifting of the ban, Ahly games will now return to Borg Al-Arab Stadium once again over security concerns.

Ahly will also be expected to be fined for the damage done to Cairo Stadium, estimated at LE650,000 ($36,913).

The prosecutor-general has said the clashes were a matter of “national security” though he stressed that the incident was in no way connected to Ahly club.

In May 2015, a court of urgent matters outlawed the Ultras.

Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour

Meanwhile, Ahly’s bitter rivals Zamalek have fallen in a huge financial hole after successive boards over several years have left the club in massive debt. Their financial committee is negotiating with other authorities that have arrears to unfreeze all the club’s accounts.
Zamalek will pay LE40 million ($2.27 million) of the LE160 million that they owe the bank. The remaining balance will be scheduled over installments. Zamalek’s financial committee also reached an agreement with the Social Insurance Authority to pay LE10 million of the LE28 million owed.

Zamalek still pay dues to their former players Junior Agogo, Mahmoud Fathallah, Ahmed Samir and Ricardo.

Zamalek SC President Mortada Mansour defended himself, saying in an official video published on Zamalek’s Website: “I made huge efforts to keep the club stable after becoming president in 2013, as the treasury was empty and there were many debts.” He stressed that the club was in a real crisis not seen throughout its history.
“I was saddened because the financial committee gave LE50 million in taxes and insurance, although I had agreed in advance to reschedule the dues to LE4 million every month.

“Zamalek would be split like Iraq if I were not around,” Mansour said.

Egypt’s Tax Authority unfroze Zamalek’s bank accounts in Banque Misr on Thursday after negotiating with Mansour.

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