As the current term kicked off after the break in majority of the football playing countries, the Egyptian FA objectively announced its fixture list for the remainder of the 12/13 season.
The league is scheduled to kick-off on February 2nd, in a competition format wherein the 18 teams will be split into two groups. The fifth time this has happened since the Egyptian league commenced in 1948.
All this due to the “politically laden” violent clashes that took place post the Al Ahly – Al Masry game in February last year, resulting in 70+ individuals losing their lives. That unfortunate incident rocked the league, the country and the global football community.
Since then, there had been several attempts to resume the league; however all of those efforts had turned unfruitful as the Ultras of Al-Ahly stepped in to disrupt it. To an extent where they attacked the headquarters of the FA, demanding justice for the lives lost (something that a Liverpool fan can relate to) among a few other stresses of theirs.
In fact, Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has pronounced the 70 + people whose lives were lost, as martyrs of the Egyptian revolution. This, being one of the demands, comes three days before the verdict is out.
A year later from the incident, the date is set for the verdict to be announced. The decision is to be made on January 26th, with all eyes on the security officials and a few fans of the Al-Masry club in the center of it.
Only a few weeks ago, fifty-five people were injured when students of Port Said University instigated clashes by hoisting Al-Ahly flags outside their hostel windows. The act did not sit well with the Ultras of Al-Masri retaliating with stones and Molotov cocktails. This incident acts as a run-up to what Egypt could encounter leading up to the verdict.
James Dorsey, the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and an expert on Middle Eastern football affairs, provides a distinctive insight into the possibility of an unsatisfying appetite of the Al Ahly fans in the event of a favorable ruling.
According to James, “The risk of violence is enhanced by the fact that even if the Cairo court rules in favor of Al Ahli, the verdict is unlikely to meet conditions the fans have set for a resumption of Egyptian soccer. The ultras have demanded in addition to serving justice in the Port Said case that the police and security forces, their nemesis and the most despised institutions in Egypt because of their role in enforcing the repression of the Mubarak government, be exempted from responsibility for security in stadiums; the police and security forces be thoroughly reformed; Mubarak era officials be removed from soccer boards and an end to corruption in the sport.”
Adam, a prominent blogger on Egyptian Football, specifies his own concerns leading up to the day of the verdict.
They revolve around “massive protests that may take place (before and after the 26th), and violence this may result in, possibly delaying the date of the ruling indefinitely”.
He goes on to address the principal matter saying, “No matter the verdict, it will never bring back the lives of the 74 lost, hence I definitely still see protests occurring if the punishments aren’t severe enough, or if the victims’ families/friends feel the results are rigged somehow”.
Of course, the subject of Port Said will never be far from the mind of those with affection for Al-Ahly, in many years to come. No matter what the outcome maybe, it is clear that the club’s supporters are scarred. And the Ultras that are naturally clannish will always impulsively defend what they see as disrespect.
Lastly, it is anticipated that, on January 26th, the families of those 70 and more individuals instigate the process of finding peace – one, which had been longed for since early 2012.
A special moment of gratitude towards James M Dorsey and Adam Moustafa in their assistance on this piece.