Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Watching from the sidelines

Football Ultras will be sitting home on 30 June, Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ultras’ stand towards 30 June has been ambiguous and, for some, suspicious. Just days before the first anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, nothing was heard from the Ultras which made the public ask what kind of role or presence or effect they will have on what is being seen as a fateful day. Up until this week the questions were met with dead silence from the Ultras which has played a significant role in the political life of the country before, during and after the 25 January Revolution of 2011, despite it being above all else a group of rabid football fans.

A statement this week from the Ultras, particularly Ahli supporters, announced they will not take part in 30 June demonstrations or make any appearance and that “whoever would take part from the group will be representing only himself.”

The statement confirmed that they were a group of football supporters “which has nothing to do with politics” and that they have pledged “not to get involved in politics again after realising that the opposition doesn’t care about the country but simply aims to rule” which is why they decided not to take to the streets.

According to a source in the Ultras Ahli group, some political groups had sought to join them in rallies expected on Sunday but declined to take part as they do not want to be accused of having any connection to possible riots. He said the Ultras took on to the streets for the sake of retribution for the 72 fans, mostly Ahli supporters, who were killed in a football riot during a local league game in Port Said in February 2012.

“What is going on now is of no interest to us.”

Ahmed Ali, a member of the Ultras of Ahli, the most famous football club in Egypt, confirmed that the Ultras had decided not to take part in the events as they do not share the demands of the participants and are not aiming at calling the president to step down. “Single participation doesn’t represent Ultras Ahli,” he said, explaining that everyone should try to avoid violence that day. Ali also confirmed that the group has no ties with the other group Ultras Thawragi (revolutionaries) or any other group.

“What is important for us these days is to support our team Ahli in its quest to claim the league championship and the national team in its World Cup qualifications,” he added.

Earlier this week, the Ultras invaded football stadiums to watch league matches despite the fact that the season, so far in its 17th week, has all been played behind closed doors as a security precaution in the wake of the Port Said tragedy.

Ultras Ahli, the White Knights of the country’s other powerhouse club Zamalek and Ultras Ittihadawi of Ittihad of Alexandria have all staged pitch invasions.

Security forces did not clash with the Ultras or try to use any kind of force to kick them out. Ten minutes after entering the stadium and attending the kick-off with Al-Gouna, Ultras Ahli left the stadium. “Next time, we won’t stay for just 10 minutes but for the whole match even if they don’t allow fans in,” the group said, adding, “no more matches will be held behind closed doors anymore.”

Ultras Ahli believe the police intentionally did nothing to stop the Port Said attack because of a relationship of deep hate between the two that goes back to football but extended well into the revolution.

The relationship calmed down relatively after multiple death sentences were handed down earlier this year to the perpetrators of the massacre.

Some reports claim that the Ultras are allied with the current regime. It is also said that there are some members who are sons of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leading members. Rumours grew when the Ultras disappeared from the scene after the Port Said verdicts were announced.

Ahmed Taha, coordinator of Tahrir Revolutionaries, said the group will be on the streets to participate in the demonstrations and call for an end to the regime.

“There is a general understanding among us that we are not going back until the president steps down and the Egyptian revolution starts on a path with clear and serious policies,” Taha said.

Ultras Thawragi have announced their participation in the upcoming marches they have called “departure or martyring”. It will start on Sunday from Al-Nour Mosque at Abbasiya at 4pm to the presidential palace in Heliopolis, all the time calling for the departure of the Brotherhood regime.

In a statement, Ultras Thawragi called on citizens to “join them on 30 June day and increase the number of martyrs by joining Jika, Christy and Al-Guindi (among other protesters killed by police); increasing the 7,000 detained youth in Egyptian prisons which includes 1,350 teenagers and 75 girls; and also increase the number of those injured”.

The statement called on Egyptians “to meet the demands of the revolution instead of asking the current regime which includes MB ministries, the attorney-general, governors and consultants”. It also said the MB has divided the nation.

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