So Ma’as salaama! then, 74 (approx) Egyptians, crushed, suffocated or stabbed to death in a riot at the end of a football match in Port Said. The dead include several members of the ground security staff and one policeman, and there were a further 248 people injured.
Fans of home team Al-Masry invaded the pitch immediately after the game ended, to celebrate the team’s 3-1 win over Egypt’s biggest and most successful club Al-Ahly, based in Cairo.
Tens of thousands of people invaded the pitch, putting the players to flight and overwhelming the external and internal security presence at the ground.
Shortly afterwards, the Cairo International Stadium shared by Al-Ahly and its local rivals Zamalek, was set on fire when the evening game being played there was cancelled as a mark of respect to the dead.
As usual, there is an outpouring of nonsense about who is to blame and why, and needless to say, politics enters the arena immediately.
Essam el-Erian, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s best-known figures, and Mr el-Erian, an MP and vice-president of the Brotherhood-backed “Freedom and Justice Party” said: “The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime. This tragedy is the result of negligence and the lack of army and police, and those running the country bear the responsibility. There are those who deliberately want to sow chaos in the country and place obstacles in front of the peaceful transfer of power.”
Of course, we all know that Muslim leaders aren’t really interested in any of freedom, justice or the peaceful transfer of power, so any bandwagon that may offer an opportunity to stage an armed take-over will be jumped on.
But can violence that occurs at football stadium necessarily be described as football violence? Surely if the fighting was either religious or politically-motivated, then it isn’t really football violence. For example, if the violence occurred in a public marketplace, would it then be described as “shopping-related violence.”
Furthermore, if the violence occurs in traditionally violent places such as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, etc, can it necessarily be described as football violence? Isn’t it just a reflection of their society, in which mob violence is a cultural norm and an everyday occurrence?
After all, millions of British people go to football matches several times a week, yet large-scale loss of life is relatively limited, when you consider the overall numbers involved. Take away the Hillsborough, Hamden Park and Bradford losses, none of which were inspired by politics or religion, and you don’t get many other large-scale losses.
That’s not to say that we don’t get “football violence.” We obviously do, but again, a lot of it simply occurs at football matches between people who like to fight, so is it really “football violence?”
Also, most Egyptian football teams are alleged to boast devoted fan bases known as “Ultras” in imitation of their European equivalents, and the two sets of Ultras belonging to these two teams have a long history of violence, so the outburst by the Muslim Brotherhood is probably just shit-stirring.
Also, consider this.
Telegraph sports writer Henry Winter wrings his hands: “Where were the police? Where were the security forces? The appalling loss of life in Port Said needs investigating by FIFA, not just by the local authorities.”
Mr Winter should read his own paper, because 5 of the 6 pictures accompanying his article on Thursday evidence the presence of dozens of policemen, in full riot gear.
Doubtless had there been hundreds of them, they would have been blamed for being heavy-handed or provocative, and therefore in some way responsible for the violence.
Also, the number of police that would have been required to deter or stop the violence would be in the tens of thousands, so there wouldn’t really be room in the ground for fans as well.
Indeed, the Egyptian police have been actively removed from policing duties due to the zeal with which they kept public order during the dying days of the Mubarak regime, so they can hardly be blamed for not showing up or for standing by in this instance.
No, what’s really required here is not to insist that FIFA investigates this riot – that is for the Egyptian authorities. What FIFA must do is ban these clubs and countries from playing abroad and taking their psychopathic, homicidal, religious fanatical, violence-prone supporters with them.