Supporter groups of Egypt’s two largest football clubs, Al-Ahly and Al-Zamalek SCs, vowed to attend their teams’ Saturday matches in the African Cup of Nations, according to statements issued on Friday.
The statements come in defiance of a Ministry of Interior order banning football fans from attending football matches, amidst growing security concerns. The order has largely remained in place since the events of a 2012 match between Al-Ahly and El-Masry SC which led to the death of at least 72 Al-Ahly fans.
Ultras Ahlawy and Ultras White Knights (UWK), the militant support groups of Al-Ahly and Al-Zamalek respectively, issued separate statements Friday morning stating that, in attending the matches, they are exercising their right as football fans to support their respective teams.
In addition, both groups said they are prepared to provide their own security for fans entering and exiting the stadiums. Both groups have done so in the past, on a smaller scale, whereby they attended and provided security in handball and basketball matches.
Ultras Ahlawy said, in its statement, that whoever wishes to prevent fans from supporting their teams is taking away their guaranteed rights.
The UWK, on the other hand, questioned why the state continues to have football matches without fans, and whose interest does this decision benefits.
The group also used the statement to condemn Mortada Mansour, the club’s president. They raised questions about Mansour’s role as president of the club, questioning how the club is in the hands of a “mentally deranged” individual, and whether he has contributed to preventing fans from going to matches.
In a videotaped response, Mansour warned UWK members against attending the match, stating that the club is acting out of respect for the Ministry of Interior, the state, and in fear for the safety of the ultras members themselves.
Members of the UWK have engaged in long-standing disagreements with Mansour in the past. The group has accused Mansour of being behind the “Air Defence Massacre” in which 20 Al-Zamalek fans lost their lives.
On 8 February 2015, an Egyptian premier league football match between Al-Zamalek SC and ENPPI took a violent turn as fans were attempting to enter the Air Defence Stadium. Many were killed when security forces violently dispersed fans crowding the entrance to the stadium. Fans were moreover trapped inside a metal walkway leading into the stadium.
Wide contentions arose with regards to the role of the security forces in the deaths of fans in both the Air Defence Stadium incident and the Post Said Stadium, where it is widely believed that security forces locked the doors of the stadium from the outside and stood by as violence ensued inside.
Furthermore, Mansour has consistently issued attacks on the UWK, branding them as “thugs and thieves”.
The Ministry of Interior issued a statement on its official Facebook page, maintaining the necessity that all fans follow regulatory procedures banning fans from attending the match.
Both matches will be played Saturday evening.