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Dirty Tackle

At least 74 dead after mass pitch invasion at Egyptian match

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

A massive pitch invasion in Port Said, Egypt, following a match between defending champions Al Ahly and fourth-place Al Masry has, according to state television, led to at least 74 deaths and more than 1,000 injured in one of the most horrific and large-scale instances of football stadium violence in recent memory. The violence appears to have far more to do with politics and the country's recent revolution than it does with the sporting event that preceded it, though.

Outnumbered riot police and members of the military appeared to do little as thousands of Al Masry fans poured out of the stands after their side won the match 3-1. They then chased Al Ahly's players and fans into a corner of the stadium before throwing rocks and bottles at them. Others were beaten with sticks and stabbed.

From Al Jazeera:

Al-Ahly football players were trapped in the changing room along with supporters. [...]

"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 [midfielder] Abo Treika told the team's television channel. "This is a horrible situation and today can never be forgotten." [...]

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.

Video of the attack shows that the police presence around the field of play largely stood idle as the violence unfolded. Why fans of the winning side would decide to launch such a sickening attack still remains unclear, but there are growing theories that it was politically motivated and that the lack of police efforts to stop it may have been intentional. Football and politics are very closely linked in Egypt and the militant fans (known as "ultras") of Al Ahly "played an in important role in the protests that early [last] year toppled President Hosni Mubarak," according to Middle East soccer blogger James Dorsey.

As a result of this attack, the Egyptian league was suspended indefinitely, and a stadium in Cairo was reportedly set on fire when a match between Al Ismailia and Zamalek was postponed.

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