Egyptian soccer game sparks riot


Violently fighting for safety and survival is not usually expected at a soccer game. Games are intended to be competitive between players, and sometimes spectators, but when sticks and stones start flying, that fine line between healthy competition and a warzone is crossed. 

Unfortunately, after a soccer game in Egypt on Feb. 1, that fine line was erased. Port Said hosted the game between Egypt’s home team, Al-Masry, and known-rivals Al-Ahly. Combined with the intensity of the fans it was an exciting and fair match, that is until the game ended.

The home team, Al-Masry, had a winning score of 3-1. Instead celebrating, the team attacked their opponents. Al-Masry stormed the field with sticks and stones, chasing players and fans.

Most unusual was the police, dressed in full uniform with helmets and shields, who did nothing as the outburst of violence unfolded around them. A player, Mohammed Abu Trika, recalls the police observing the violence, refusing to make any effort to help the people before them being trampled and beaten. They were later criticized by their lack of interference.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi told the military air base east of Cairo “These incidents happen anywhere in the world.” Seventy four deaths, and hundreds of injuries at a soccer game do not happen accidentally, and certainly not anywhere in the world. 

Egypt has recently been plastering newspaper headlines related to the overwhelming amount of political turmoil. However it seems that these displays of civil disobedience were not directly linked to current politics, it seems to be pure, fan-related chaos. 

When I go to a hockey or basketball game at UVM, I am searched for weapons, alcohol and other illegal substances. This seems to be regular procedure for games and even concerts. It is a way for police to minimize harm during an event. 

Al-Masry and Al-Ahly are two teams that are known for their fierce rivalry. Why is it that the police did not search the spectators for harmful weapons upon entering the stadium? The police did not stir up trouble, but they definitely did not attempt to eliminate it. 

Egypt plans to investigate the fighting. It is unclear why the enormous fight broke out, and many witnesses’ stories seem to be different from each other’s with the exception of one common factor: The police did nothing at all. 

I thought the point of having the police go to sporting events was for the sake and safety of the fans and players. Egypt may have some dramatic political issues going on but the security needs to be amped up and restructured.

The game was declared the deadliest soccer game in the world since 1996. A tragic night that could have been restricted with security checks at the entrance and proactive policemen.