Body & Sports

Egypt football tragedy leaves 74 dead for nothing

Updated: 2012-02-02
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Read more on: Al Ahli   Al-Masry   Port Said Stadium  
At least 74 football fans have been killed and 1,000 others left injured after riots broke out at a match in Egypt.   
  
Seconds after the referee blew his whistle, supporters swarmed onto the pitch throwing stones, fireworks and bottles at rival fans, players and security officers in the city of Port Said, officials said. 
  
It was the worst incident of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996. 
  
 
The Egyptian army was being airlifted in by helicopter to rescue stranded players who became trapped in the changing rooms
The Egyptian army was being airlifted in by helicopter to rescue stranded players who became trapped in the changing rooms 
   
Egyptian fans clash with riot police after a shock result in the country's premier league
Egyptian fans clash with riot police after a shock result in the country's premier league 
  
Police struggled to keep order as chaos erupted in the stadium
Police struggled to keep order as chaos erupted in the stadium
  
The game was between Al Ahli, one of Egypt's most successful clubs, and Al-Masry, a team based in Port Said. 
  
Live television footage showed Masry fans running onto the field after the referee blew the whistle and chasing Ahli players, even though their team secured a shock 3-1 win. 
  
The Ahly players rushed for their changing room as fights broke out among the hundreds of fans swarming on to the field. 
  
Some men went to the rescue of a manager from the losing team as he was being beaten while police officers stood by, apparently overwhelmed. 
 
Ahli player Mohamed Abo Treika described the violence on the Ahli television channel as a 'war'. 
  
He said: '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. 
   
  
Children were seen among the crowds at the stadium of Port Said as violence broke out
Children were seen among the crowds at the stadium of Port Said as violence broke out   
    
Television pictures showed fans swarming over the pitch after a match in the Egyptian city of Port Said
Television pictures showed fans swarming over the pitch after a match in the Egyptian city of Port Said    
    
Hesham Sheiha, Egypt's deputy health minister, said the riot was the 'biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history'
Hesham Sheiha, Egypt's deputy health minister, said the riot was the 'biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history' 
   
Most of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fire
Most of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fire
      
'I call for the premier league to be cancelled. This is horrible situation and today can never be forgotten.' 
 
Former Tottenham midfielder Hossam Ghaly was caught up in the horrific scenes. 
 
Ghaly, who made 34 appearances for Spurs between 2006 and 2009, is captain of Ahly and was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 75th minute. 
     
He is believed to have been in the dressing room when the violence erupted. 
 
State television quoted Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, as saying that most of the injuries were caused by concussion and deep cuts. He added that the riot was the 'biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history'. 
  
Egypt's state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, and the Egypt Football Association ordered an indefinite suspension of the annual championship. The parliament said it would convene an emergency session. 
  
Most of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fire. 
  
Last night the Egyptian army was being airlifted in by helicopter to rescue stranded players who became trapped in the changing rooms. 
    
It was the deadliest incident of soccer violence since October 16, 1996, when at least 78 people died and 180 others were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Guatemala City before a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica. 
   
The world's most fatal match was in May 1964 when a game between Peru and Argentina in the Peruvian capital Lima descended into violence and 318 fans were killed. 
  
Britain's worst football disaster remains the Hillsborough tragedy in Sheffield in April 1989, in which 96 people lost their lives. 
  
One witness to the Egypt riot said people threw stones, sticks and bottles at their rivals and injured some players. The witness was speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution. 
 
He said the atmosphere was already tense in the field before the game as one Al-Ahly fan raised a banner insulting supporters of the home team. 
 
Security forces in Egypt had been keeping a lower profile since last year’s popular protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power, allowing fans to smuggle knives into the stadium. 
    
Egyptian fans are notoriously violent, particularly supporters of Al-Ahly who are known as the Ultras. 
  
The Ultras were heading into Port Said in the aftermath of the massacre, according to their website, leading to fears of violent reprisals. 
 
The two teams have a long history of bad blood, and clashes have erupted in recent years between their fans. 
  
Another match in Cairo was halted by the referee after receiving news of the violence in Port Said, prompting fans to set parts of the stadium on fire, television footage showed.
  
SOURCE: dailymail.co.uk
 
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