Egypt : Deadly stadium stampede killed at least 22 soccer fans
Cairo ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Egypt has blamed football fans for a deadly stadium stampede that killed at least 22 people on Sunday night, arresting supporters of a Cairo club and suspending the only footballer who refused to play on as violence unfolded outside the stadium.
The accusation followed claims by supporters of Zamalek football team that the deaths were a “deliberate massacre” orchestrated by police.
Police had fired tear gas into a crowd of Zamalek Sporting Club fans as they crushed to enter the first premiership game open to the public in over two years.
Dozens of fans are believed to have died in the stampede that followed, making it one of the deadliest incidents in Egypt’s sporting history, and prompting the authorities to suspend the league indefinitely.
“The Zamalek fans tried to get in by force, and we had to prevent them from damaging public property,” said Egypt’s interior ministry in a statement.
At least 17 people from the White Knights, a hardcore legion of Zamalek fans, have since been detained on the order of Egypt’s public prosecutor.
But the club’s fans offer a very different version of events. The White Knights have called the deaths a ‘deliberate massacre’, and on Monday, eyewitnesses said police had prompted the deadly panic by firing tear gas canisters directly into the middle of a specially constructed caged corridor that ran along the outside of Cairo’s Air Defence Stadium.
“Young people were screaming ‘help me, help me'” said Diaa El Rahman Diaa, a young fan who had managed to scramble to safety. “Before me I saw corpses of human beings – five minutes before, they had been laughing and singing, cheering for Zamalek.”
On Monday, Zamalek terminated the contract of midfielder Omar Gaber, the only player who refused to take to the pitch as violence continued outside the stadium walls. The football club, one of Egypt’s oldest, is owned by a bombastic old regime stalwart, Mortada Mansour, who is locked in a poisonous feud with the team’s rank and file supporters.
On Monday morning, dozens of families gathered outside Cairo’s central morgue, waiting for news of loved ones who had not come home from the match.
“I ask the police – where is my son? Where is he?” shouted one old man, before entreating the crowd to remember a description of the 20 year old.
Several Zamalek fans sat slumped against a nearby wall, visibly distraught.
The crowd remained, even after officials said the last coffin had left the morgue.
“You can’t get rid of us that easily,” shouted one woman as the facility’s blue gates slammed shut.
The relationship between Egypt’s police and its football fans has long been fraught. Supporters of Egypt’s two biggest clubs, Al-Ahly and Zamalek, both based in Cairo, manned the frontlines of the uprising in Cairo.
The premier league was suspended for two years, after more than 70 Ahly fans were killed in a stadium riot in February 2012.For more news and stories, join us on Facebook,Twitter , or contact us through our Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org