The violence flared after Al-Ahly, one of Egypt’s most successful teams, were beaten 3-1. Television footage showed players running from the pitch chased by fans. A small group of riot police tried to protect the players, but appeared to be overwhelmed and unable to stop fans attacking players. Fans of both teams clashed and stormed the pitch and dressing rooms. The deputy health minister, Hesham Sheiha, called it “the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history”.
“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 Mohamed Aboutrika told his club’s television channel. “I call for the league to be cancelled. This is a horrible situation, and today can never be forgotten.”
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council, ordered helicopters sent to Port Said to ferry injured team members and fans of the visiting side to military hospital.
State television reported that Egypt’s Premier League matches would be postponed until further notice, and parliament is to hold a special session on Thursday regarding the violence.
In Cairo, fans congregated outside Al-Ahly’s ground in the Zamalek neighbourhood, some in tears as they waited to hear news of family and friends who had attended the match. They were joined by fans of their arch-rivals Zamalek, who came along to offer support. Chants rang out against the ministry of interior and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
One Al-Ahly fan, Khaled Gad, told the Guardian: “What’s upsetting is the huge lapse in security, which I feel is purposeful on the part of the interior ministry and the military.” Chants of “down with military rule” were sung by the supporters.
Soon after the violence, a match in the Cairo stadium between Al-Ismailiya and Zamalek was called off in mourning for the dead. State TV showed video of this stadium on fire. The announcer said angry fans of Zamalek had protested at the cancellation, and set light to parts of the stadium.