At least 73 people dead and 1,000 injured as supporters of rival teams clash after game in Port Said.
At least 73 people have been killed in clashes after a football game in the northern Egyptian city of Port Said, medics say. About 1,000 others were injured in Wednesday’s violence, including police. At least two players suffered light injuries. Fans of the winning al-Masry team flooded the field seconds after the match with al-Ahly, Egypt’s top team, was over.
A security official said the fans chased the players and cornered their supporters on the field and around the stadium, throwing stones and bottles at them. Thousands of supporters covered the field, as seen in a video posted online.
“This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history,” Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, said. He said most of the injuries were caused by concussion and deep cuts.
Al-Ahly football players were trapped in the changing room along with supporters. Riot police were sent in to drive the rival crowds of fans back.
‘War, not football’
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, sent army helicopters to transfer al-Ahly football players and injured fans from Port Said. Private cars helped to shuttle the injured across the city to hospitals.
“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances,” al-Ahly player Abo Treika told the team’s television channel. “This is a horrible situation and today can never be forgotten.”
State television announced that parliament will hold an emergency session over the violence. State prosecutors ordered an investigation into the pitch invasion and the violence that ensued. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest political force, accused supporters of the toppled president, Hosni Mubarak, of instigating the violence.
“The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime,” Essam al-Erian, a parliamentarian, said in a statement on the group’s Freedom and Justice Party website. Al-Ahly’s supporter club, Ultras, said on their website that they would head to Port Said later in the evening.
History of clashes
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was “very shocked and saddened” to learn that a large number of football supporters had died or been injured”.
“This is a black day for football,” he said in a statement. “Such a catastrophic situation is nimaginable and should not happen.”
Al-Masry team won a rare 3-1 victory against Al-Ahly on its home turn in Wednesday’s match. The two teams have a long history of bad blood, and clashes have erupted in recent years between their fans.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said al-Ahly fans were said to have been provoking al-Masry fans throughout the game with abusive language. But our correspondent said the issue goes beyond the pitch, as Egypt is experiencing a “security vacuum” after the revolution which overthrew Mubarak.
“There were clearly riot police on that pitch, but they were seen either not getting involved or running in the other direction,” she said. “Some people say the police force perhaps has not been trained to deal with violence, except in the way they were trained during Mubarak, which was with sheer and brutal force. And now when they can’t do that, they’re unable to deal with violence.”
A match in Cairo on Wednesday evening was interrupted following the news of the deaths in Port Said. Television footage showed a big fire behind the supporter stand at the Cairo stadium. The Premier League, which the games were part of, was suspended indefinitely.