Football has been suspended indefinitely in Egypt once again after clashes at Sunday’s game between Zamalek and city rivals ENPPI in Cairo left at least 22 people dead.
People were crushed after police fired tear gas at supporters of Zamalek as they tried to enter the Air Defense Stadium. Fans blamed the authorities for opening only one gate. Despite the violence, the match went ahead and finished in a 1-1 draw.
ENPPI coach Tarek El Ashry said that the two team knew nothing about the loss of life and they would have refused to play the top-of-the-table derby game if they had known about the tragedy that was unfolding outside the stadium.
“I would like to express my sympathy for the losses and I would like to express my deep sadness,” said El Ashry. “I also would like to confirm that if we’d been told about any of what has happened, both us and Zamalek we wouldn’t play. We didn’t know anything at all.”
The league was suspended in 2012 after 74 fans died in rioting at a game in Port Said.
The Egyptian interior ministry released a statement claiming fans used force in an attempt to gain access to the stadium.
“They tried to break the stadium gates by force, which forced security to stop them from continuing to do this,” the ministry said.
Survivors claimed that police opened fired on ticket-holding fans from Zamalek SC as they tried to enter the Air Defence stadium, a military-owned stadium in eastern Cairo.
Zamalek’s fans, like many others in Egypt, played an active role in the revolutionary movement that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011, prompting some to suggest that their treatment on Sunday was an act of revenge by the police.