Soccer Fans Key to Imminent Cairo Street Battle

The coming hours could determine whether embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's opponents and particularly the ultras, fanatic soccer fans of rival Cairo clubs Al Ahly and Al Zamalek, have the wherewithal to fight the apparently trained pro-Mubarak forces.

The ultras are one of the few, if not the only group among Mubarak's opponents, that not only have an organization but are battle-hardened street fighters as opponents and supporters of Mubarak gear up for a major confrontation in downtown Cairo.

Mubarak, steeled by 30 years in power and ruthless, could win battle if the opposition and the ultras don't have the wherewithal for what is likely to be a brutal fight. Mubarak has nothing more to lose. He's become a domestic and international pariah whether he stays in power or resigns.

The ultras are a key part of the alliance of youth activists, Islamists, and workers rebelling against Mubarak because of his failure to alleviate poverty, eradicate corruption and provide jobs as well as its employment of repression and torture to stymie opposition.

Al Ahly’s ultras last week issued a statement that as an organization it was determined to remain non-political, but that its members were free as individuals to participate in the protests. “The group emphasizes that its members are free in their political choices,” the group said in a statement on Facebook said.

Established in 2007, the ultras -- modelled on Italy’s autonomous, often violent fan clubs -- have proven their metal in confrontations with the Egyptian police, who charge that criminals and terrorists populate their ranks.

“There is no competition in politics, so competition moved to the soccer pitch. We do what we have to do against the rules and regulations when we think they are wrong,” an El Ahly ultra said last year after his group overran a police barricade trying to prevent it from bringing flares, fireworks and banners into the stadium. “You don’t change things in Egypt talking about politics. We’re not political, the government knows that and has to deal with us,” he adds.


  1. In the spirit of Oxford debate, thanks for the opportunity to encounter the political apotheosis of soccer from a European point of view arising from the glories of the 100 Years War,

    The above article notesL
    "As Egyptian opposition forces jockey for position in Mubarak’s heyday, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition force, is certin to emerge as a key player.

    The Brotherhood already has exerted its influence over the team. Players pray before games for God’s intervention and offer up prayers of thanks for goals and victories. To join the team, players must pass a religious litmus test; “pious behavior” alongside soccer skills is a primary criterion for making the team. “Without it, we will never select any player regardless of his potential,” says coach Hassan Sheheta, who dumped a talented player for visiting a nightclub rather than a mosque. “I always strive to make sure that those who wear the Egypt jersey are on good terms with God.”


    Though critical of tricky US wishy washy tightrope walking efforts to preserve support for Arab Israeli peace stemming from Carter days, does not this "pitch" support Fox News side advocacy of fear of a fundamentalist take over spearheaded by the anti-US faction that educated AlQueda's 2nd in command? ...

    What are we in the less soccer infatuated zones to make of the apotheosis of soccer hooliganism as weather vane of war in showing and reinforcing such atavistic fault lines as the Bedouin-Jordanian rift?

    The recent rock-throwing attacks on the Algerian team in their bus on the way to a match suggests what about the role of "football" in North African tribal rivalries that surely must be transcended to approach a viable North African civilization in the 21st century?

    Rather than bringing the glories of fundamentalism to football, let us pray the circles of Christians around praying Muslims, and the protection by Muslims of Christians saying Mass for the dead protesters in Tahrir Square set the stage for the future...

    Amen, secularly.


    The full article, from Henry on Facebook:

    Talking about a Revolution – Football’s role in Egypt protests
    3 Feb, 2011 guest Africa, Internationals, Latest, Politics & Society

  2. Bruce, thanks for your comment. My posting simply described a situation as it is. I am not advocating that the pitch become a platform for religious rivalry or competition. If anything, I would be critical of religion being a criterion for membership in a national team.


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