Anytime the month of February comes in, every “normal person” around the world is automatically filled with love and joy, it is the month of love and happiness, but it is different for an Egyptian football fan, especially one who supports Al Ahly. It is a month of unhappiness, grief and rancor. The 2012 Port Said Stadium massacre comes to mind.
On 1 February 2012, Egyptian football, Africa and world football received one of it greatest catastrophe after a massive riot transpired at the Port Said Stadium. The ghastly incident happened after a match between two Egyptian rivals Al Masry and Al Ahly, 74 people were killed and more than 500 were badly injured. 72 of the people killed were Al Ahly fans, 1 Al Masry fan and a police officer.
Al Masry on the day came from a goal down to beat Al Ahly by 3-1. Thousands of Al Masry spectators stormed the stadium stands and the pitch, they violently attacked Ahly fans using clubs, stones, bottles, and fireworks.
The police did not intervene. Instead, they withdrew from the stadium, welded the doors, and turned off the stadium lights. In the meantime, fans of Al Ahly were being chased, stabbed, choked, and thrown off the grandstands. Fans who survived claimed security personnel did not conduct the usual body searches at stadium entrances, definitive proof that the weapons used inside the stadium were allowed to be smuggled in.
The incident led to the death of 74 people and left more than 500 injured. Most of the fans killed in the stadium were between the age of thirteen and twenty. The massacre took place within a twenty-minute frenzy. Hisham Sheha, an official in the Egyptian health ministry, said the deaths were caused by stab wounds, brain hemorrhages, and concussions.
“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. Is life this cheap” – Al Ahly and Egyptian legend Aboutrika said
It was later reported that a major factor in the riots was retaliation on the part of the authorities towards the Ultras Ahlawy, who were actively involved in Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian revolution protests and during SCAF Chairman Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s rule as they kept chanting anti-government revolutionary chants in almost all Ahly games in the Egyptian Premier League games
People who attended the game stated that, in contrast with normal procedures, no security searches were conducted at the stadium entrances, allowing makeshift weapons to be smuggled in. Eyewitnesses claimed that the attending security personnel took no action to prevent or mitigate the clashes. There were other claims that the gates of the stadium were locked shut, locking the minority Al-Ahly supporters in.
Al-Ahly ultras claim that they were specifically targeted given their vocal highly televised calls for the SCAF to step down, as well as their open mockery of the previous regime and the SCAF.
The riot led to the suspension of Egypt’s top flight for over a year, one which affected the Egyptian National team. The ban was later lifted, but with matches played in empty stadiums. The ban which was previously lifted was swiftly reinstated following the death of 20 Zamalek fans in 2015, when police fired teargas and birdshot at fans entering Cairo’s Air Defence Stadium.
Following the Port Said massacre, 73 defendants, including 9 police officers and 2 officials from Port Said’s Al-Masry club, were charged in the killing of 72 Ahly football club fans. 11 were sentenced to death, with some receiving prison sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
On Friday, February 14th, the two rivals will take to the field once more, old rivalry will be reignited at the Al Ahly Stadium.