PtG Article 02.02.2012

Egypt football violence and its significance for the revolution

In the biggest disaster in Egypt’s football history, at least 74 people were killed when rival fans from two of Egypt’s top tier clubs clashed yesterday. On top of the 74 deaths, a great number of people were injured yesterday as fans invaded the pitch after a match between the clubs al-Masry and al-Ahly in the city of Port Said, and officials fear the death toll could rise further. Trouble started after al-Ahly were beaten 3-1.

Television footage showed players running from the pitch chased by fans, writes The Guardian. Egyptian fans are notoriously violent, particularly supporters of al-Ahly known as the Ultras. They played a key role in the political protests last year which lead to the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak, writes the BBC.

Reports have since yesterday criticised the lack of security measures in the stadium and the police’s failure to prevent or contain the fighting. 

This has led to speculation that the security forces intentionally kept a low profile and allowed the violence to take place to prove that the police are needed to avoid a breakdown of law and order, writes James Dorsey, expert in Middle East football. 

On his blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, Dorsey analyses the significance of these events and the implications it might have for the revolutions in Egypt. 

He argues that “this tragedy is not simply a story of a match gone horribly awry: It will have important and wide-ranging political ramifications, further isolate militant, highly politicized, violence-prone fan groups, single out the police for renewed criticism, and strengthen calls for the imposition of law and order”.

Read his analysis in full on and his blog

SOURCE: BBC, the Guardian, Foreign Policy

Play the Game has been focussing on the theme "Sport in the Middle East" for some time, both on our website and as a theme on our latest conference.

For more information on sport in the Middle East see Play the Game's theme page The Middle East on the Move

For more information from James Dorsey, also watch his presentation on sport in the Middle East from Play the Game 2011 here (last half of the video)