Security fears force indefinite delay of Egypt's football season

 

Cairo

Top-flight Egyptian footballers suffered a setback this week when sports officials announced that the Egyptian Premier League, one of the most high-profile domestic championships in Africa, would be indefinitely suspended as a result of the deadly stadium disaster that killed 74 supporters in Port Said earlier this year.

The decision, which was applauded by friends and family of those who died, came after a freeze imposed immediately after the deadly clashes which erupted when Port Said's local side played against Cairo-based Al-Ahly in February.

It threatens to reopen old wounds between proponents of the ban – who include Al-Ahly supporters who fiercely protect the memory of their fallen comrades – and players who argue that Egypt's domestic game is suffering serious damage.

Members of the Ultras Ahlawy, the die-hard football fans who were among those knifed and stampeded to death by groups of opposition supporters and thugs in February, say it is distasteful to resume the Premier League while those accused of orchestrating the killings are on trial.

Their cause has been backed by numerous politicians, including high profile members of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal opposition factions. "Stopping the league is a sign of respect for the martyrs," said Ahmad el-Sha'er, a 23-year-old ultra.

A total of 73 defendants are on trial accused of involvement in the stadium disaster. They included nine senior security officials, three officials from Port Said's club and a number of fans.

Yet Mr El-Sha'er said he believed the trial was a "fake" investigation. Voicing the suspicions of many Egyptians – large numbers of whom believe the clashes were planned by pro-Mubarak stooges loyal to the old regime – he said the trial was a smokescreen to protect the real culprits.

Large numbers of top-flight players have started sailing against the prevailing political winds, voicing their opposition to any continued suspension.

Hundreds of footballers and coaches gathered outside the Ministry of Sport in Cairo this month to demand a resumption of the league. They included some of Egypt's biggest stars.

Expressing the desperation shared by many of his colleagues – some of whom have had little top flight action for eight months – veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan told Egyptian newspapers the ban was harming the sporting economy. "Football helps more than five million Egyptians earn their livings," he said. "It's important that it resumes."

Yet he and his colleagues face an uphill battle – one that has been made even harder by the Hillsborough-like wave of grief which was triggered by the Port Said disaster. In the minds of many Al-Ahly ultras, events earlier this year have become indelibly stained by the legacy of the Mubarak regime. As a result, any perceived slight is ferociously opposed.

When the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) announced last month that it intended to resume the Premier League, die-hard Al-Ahly fans launched fireworks at the organisation's Cairo headquarters and then stormed the building.

Days later, when the one-off Super Cup competition was due to take place in Alexandria, the ultras threatened to disrupt the match.

Following the continued protests, officials delayed the start of the league until 17 October. But the eventual kick-off has now been put back indefinitely.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star