Egypt’s football association has decided to delay the rest of the domestic season indefinitely, saying that they have not been given security guarantees by the government in the wake of the Port Said tragedy.
Seventy-four people, most of them supporters of Cairo club al-Ahly, the most successful club team in Africa, were killed when Port Said-based al-Masry fans went on a rampage at the end of a match in February.
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“We asked the ministry of interior for the authorisation but we didn’t receive any response,” the Egyptian football association said in a statement on their official website on Monday.
The Egyptian league was due to resume on October 17, but some of Ahly’s supporters, known as ultras, have been calling for a suspension until verdicts are heard in the trial of 73 defendants accused of carrying out the killings.
All football activities were disrupted in the country after the stadium stampede in the northern city of Port Said on Februrary 1, the deadliest sporting tragedy in Egyptian history.
An official from within the football association told Egypt’s Ahram Online that the reason for the delay was because “the newly elected board decided to take the side of martyrs and injured families and to support the ultras [Ahly club fans] in their demand to freeze the league competition until the Port Said case ends”.
Nine senior police officers and three Masry officials are among 73 people accused of involvement in the deadly riot in Port Said. Some of the defendants face murder charges, while the senior officers have been charged with assisting the attackers.
The clashes in the Suez Canal city between fans of home side al-Masry and Cairo’s al-Ahly erupted at the final whistle.
Masry fans invaded the pitch after their team beat the visitors 3-1, throwing stones, bottles and fireworks at Ahly supporters, causing chaos and panic as players and fans fled in all directions.
It was one of the deadliest incidents in football history, and came amid charges from witnesses that security forces did little to prevent the rioting.
The Port Said stadium deaths also led to days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed.
The prosecutor said the accused, many of whom are Masry supporters, started the violence that killed the Ahly fans “in revenge for prior differences between them, and in a show of force”.
Many Egyptians believe the football riot was orchestrated either by the police or by supporters of toppled president Hosni Mubarak, a reflection of the distrust felt towards the country’s ruling military.