|A metal fence collapsed under the weight of the crowd, after they clashed with anti-police armed with batons|
A football game in Amman between Jordan’s Al-Wahdat and Al-Faisaly clubs has ended in violence.
As anti-riot police tried to control crowds as they left the football field on Friday, a metal fence collapsed under the weight of the crowd, injuring some 250 people.
Eyewitnesses said that several people were beaten to death by police trying to prevent an escalation of clashes between the two teams’ supporters.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Amman, said that government officials denied any police wrongdoing.
Supporters of Al-Wahdat are generally of Palestinian origin, while Al-Faisaly fans are of Jordanian origin, our correspondent said.
During the past few years, tensions between the teams’ supporters have marred their matches. The number of injuries in Friday’s game is exceptionally high, however.
“Supporters of the winning team usually leave the stadium chanting political and racist slogans,” she said.
“This might have led the anti-riot forces, as some eyewitnesses have said, to try to attack some of these supporters who have left the stadium.”
According to witness accounts, the violence broke out outside the stadium, with some people smashing cars.
“Let’s see whether [the government] is going to have a credible investigation, with people who made mistakes held accountable,” Salameh Nematt, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera.
Nematt said the Jordanian government has emphasised national unity but that transparency is necessary to enhance people’s confidence in the rule of law.
“Today’s incident may have political implications, but the government is trying not to highlight this Palestinian-Jordanian divide within Jordan,” El-Shamayleh reported.
Almost half of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin, and these football games have a history of bringing the country’s ethnic tensions to the fore.
Although most of Jordan’s Palestinians carry Jordanian passports and enjoy citizenship rights unmatched by other Arab host governments, many of them complain that they are barred from taking up security and army posts or holding other top positions in the Jordanian government.
Some native Jordanians feel the Palestinian refugees have no allegiance to the country.
The political sensitivity of football hooliganism in Jordan was underlined earlier this week after a cable sent by the US embassy in Amman was released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
The cable focused on a match between the same two clubs, Al-Faisaly and Al-Wahdat, which was cancelled on July 17, 2009, following “anti-Palestinian hooliganism and slogans denigrating the Palestinian origins of both the Queen and the Crown Prince”.
“The game exposed the growing rift between East Bankers and Palestinians in Jordan. The King’s silence on the event is noteworthy, as is reluctance among our contacts to discuss the issue,” its author wrote.