Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013

Ahram Weekly

Black day by White Knights

The sports scene is no different from any other in Egypt. It has become messy, chaotic and scary, Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On Monday, the Egyptian State Ministry of Sports issued an apology on its official website. The statement, which addressed the media, said it was sorry for the “intimidating incidents” that took place during the minister’s press conference last week. The press conference was cancelled after Zamalek fans invaded the hall at Cairo Stadium. The statement also called on all parties of the sports family to consider the nation’s welfare and give it first priority.

Reports claimed hundreds of protesters stormed into the press conference which was held at the Equestrian Hall at Cairo Stadium in Nasr City even before it began. The minister, Al-Amri Farouk, was alone on stage preparing to speak to invited media representatives, but the sudden siege by the Zamalek Ultras or “White Knights” forced him to run for his life. Farouk barely escaped through the back door, followed by media people, many of whom fell to the floor during the stampede.

The press conference was held by the minister to announce the new sports regulations of Egyptian club elections and board of directors and share with the media the new development plans up until 2020. However, before Farouk had the chance to speak, angry fans flooded the main entrances of the stadium, ran to the equestrian hall, broke the door down and started destroying everything around them, throwing tear gas canisters used in street riots, into the small conference hall. They were courageous enough to identify themselves as Zamalek fans and White Knights, as they swore against the minister and the media as well, threatening to take revenge.

Though nobody was reported to be seriously injured some fainted from the tear gas and the sudden shock. Some cameras and other equipment were damaged and so was the laptop of the minister. Farouk was using it for his presentation on future development plans.

The apology addressed an angry media which was highly critical of the incident. Senior editors who attended the conference went on radio and TV shows and lashed at the country’s security vacuum, the chaos and disorder with no respect or fear of the law and where anybody can do anything and surprisingly, as it might seem, under the very eyes of the government.

“We almost died in there. The hall is very small. They were young boys who shouted and screamed. It was so scary. We are lucky we managed to escape from the back door,” said Al-Ahram’s sports critic and football commentator Ashraf Mahmoud.

Radwan Al-Zayati, president of the Egyptian Sports Press Association, said it was very disappointing. “We have reached a point where violence has become the only way to object and there is no place for dialogue.”

A day before the conference, Zamalek Chairman Mamdouh Abbas opened fire at Farouk, a former Ahli Club board member, claiming that he was taking decisions in favour of his club all the way. Abbas was angry because the minister had refused to prolong Abbas’s term as board chairman and his members when their mandate expires by the end of May and decided to appoint a temporary committee to run the club until elections are held in September. Though Abbas did not directly encourage the Zamalek fans to use violence against the minister, it was clear to everyone that Abbas’s angry statements and threats against the minister, especially those involving rivals Ahli, were a green light to his Ultras to go threaten the minister.

While Zamalek’s board chairman and members denied any ties to the protesters, the White Knights admitted on their Facebook page that they were “the club’s army who would sacrifice their souls for the sake of the club”.

But some top sports officials like former Zamalek Club Chairmen Kamal Darwish and Galal Ibrahim blamed Abbas for his statements which riled the fans while former Football Association chairman Al-Dahshouri Harb blamed the minister.

Surprisingly, no action was taken against the White Knights, just as was the case with the Ahli Ultras in all previous incidents of violence. No charges have been filed against those who attacked the conference members and might have attacked the minister had he not fled from the back door. Videos are everywhere and the culprits have been identified. But it has become the norm, just like in all previous incidents in the country. What apparently most encouraged the White Knights is the lack of accountability and the fact that culprits who attack people are untouchable, especially Ahli Ultras. Their Zamalek compatriots seemed confident they would not be touched, and indeed expected to be indulged, just like their rivals.

The ministry would not file charges, leaving it to security to investigate. It would only withdraw its decision and there will be no temporary committee in Zamalek.

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