Clashes continue over Egypt football club ban
One person killed and more than 100 injured in ongoing violence in Port Said following two-year ban on al-Masry club.
Clashes have continued between police and football fans in the northern Egyptian city of Port Said, after their club, al-Masry, was banned for two seasons following the country’s worst-ever stadium violence last month.
The clashes began late on Friday, continuing into Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Residents were assessing the damage following the violence which claimed at least one protester’s life and left more than 100 others injured.
Al Jazeera’s sources in Port Said said the deceased was a 17-year old teenage boy. Almost half of the injured were hurt during the clashes on Saturday and 16 of those wounded were army soldiers, our sources said.
Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police on Saturday evening near the Suez Canal Authority building, the site of the previous day’s violence.
Police responded by firing into the air to disperse the crowd, security officials said. Tear gas was also fired.
“It has been another violent night here in Port Said, all the action taking place in front of the Suez Canal Authority building where we saw army soldiers firing tear gas and also using water cannon against protesters,” Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Port Said late on Saturday.
She said the military had decided to increase security in the area: “Central security force officers are being deployed to Port Said and more soldiers are being called from a nearby base in Ismailia to Port Said.”
The city’s harbour was closed on Saturday due to the protests, and ships using the Suez Canal were redirected to a secondary route, located east of the city, the Reuters news agency reported.
Eyewitnesses told Reuters that many factories were also closed on Saturday, as hundreds of protesters had blocked roads leading in to the coastal Mediterranean city.
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) announced the ban on Friday following the pitch invasion that killed 74 fans on February 1, when Port Said-based al-Masry beat Cairo’s al-Ahly, the most successful club team in Africa.
Port Said stadium, where the stampede took place, would be closed for three years, the EFA said.
Al-Ahly were ordered to play four matches behind closed doors, while the club’s coach and captain were suspended.
The EFA said in a statement that al-Masry’s football activities would be suspended through the 2012-2013 season. The club would be re-instated to the Premier League, the country’s top competition, in the 2013-2014 season.
During the February pitch invasion, steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands and dozens were crushed to death.
Many fans blamed the government for failing to send enough police to the stadium, given the tense build-up to the match, and many believe the violence was started by hired thugs. At least 1,000 people were injured.
“There is of course a purely football element to [the protests by al-Masry fans],” Al Jazeera’s Tadros reported.
“They are angry at the fact that their club has been suspended for the next two seasons and the ramifications that will have for the club.
“But much wider than that we are speaking to people in the street who feel that all of these sanctions are just blaming al-Masry fans and people here in Port Said for what happened on February the 1st. The people here blame the police for what happened on that night,” she said.
Prosecutors referred 75 people, including nine security officials in Port Said, to the criminal court on March 15 to face trial over the violence last month.
Fans of al-Ahly, meanwhile, contend that the sanctions against al-Masry are not harsh enough, and have called for a protest to be held outside the EFA’s offices on Sunday.