At least twenty-two died and many more were injured on Sunday evening during clashes between Zamalek’s hardcore football fans, the Ultras White Knights, and police forces at the Air Force stadium in New Cairo, according to the official Facebook page for the Ultras White Knights.
The page listed the names and ages of the deceased, most of whom were between seventeen and twenty-three years old.
The clashes erupted when a number of football fans attempted to get into the military-owned stadium without tickets to the Zamalek vs.ENPPI premier league game, according to the Interior Ministry.
According to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, a number of fans lay in front of the bus transporting Zamalek football players to the stadium. Police dispersed the crowd using tear gas, which caused chaos that resulted in a stampede. The Ultras White Knights Facebook page said some of the victims died of suffocation.
In an interview with privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the head of Zamalek Club blamed the Brotherhood for the deaths and asked the prosecution to pursue the killers, claiming the police did not fire at fans. “Some hooligans stood in front of the club bus and prevented it from moving forward. The situation inside the stadium was great. But the White Knights members stormed the stadium with the aim of a massacre, and this is what happened. The Ultras have harmed Egypt and vowed to burn the Zamalek club. They are criminals."
In a telephone conversation with CBC`s Huna al-Assema, Deputy Minister of Interior Abdel Fattah Osman also denied that police fired at fans and added that the deaths were mostly caused by a stampede. CBC showed footage of police firing tear gas at fans, causing them to panic.
A statement from the Health Ministry confirmed most of the deaths seemed to have been caused by a stampede, reportedly evidenced by bruising and several broken necks.
The White Knights Facebook page claimed fans were stuck in a metal cage used to exit the stadium as police fired tear gas and Birdshot into the cage.
According to independently owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, the corpses of the victims were transported to New Cairo Hospital and Al-Ahly Bank Hospital.
The match continued, despite the chaos unfolding outside the stadium. Al-Ahram reported that Zamalek player Omar Gaber withdrew from the game in support of the fans, who reportedly held banners calling for an end to the match. Gaber was later suspended by Zamalek Club management for "sympathizing" with the Ultras.
General Prosecutor Hesham Barakat called several White Knights members for investigation concerning the incident and dispatched an investigative team to view footage from the Stadium’s security cameras.
While the Zamalek Club took no responsibility for the clashes in an official letter to the football federation, the latter responded by saying that no less than 10,000 tickets were given to the club, while the number of fans inside the stadium didn`t reach that number. The federation accused the club of keeping these tickets, causing clashes to erupt as eager fans could not get in.
The Cabinet urged the passing of major decisions in the wake of the disaster and sent condolences to the families of the deceased.
Cairo Kora, Youm7`s sports website, said 500 fans who showed up at the gate with no tickets were responsible for the bloody clashes, according to the public relations manager at the Interior Ministry.
The news portal added that security forces were dispatched around the house of the Club`s chairman, Mortada Mansour, in anticipation of any further clashes.
Cairo Kora quoted Sarwat Sweilam, the executive director of the Football Federation, as saying that the decision to allow fans back into games would be reversed, but that cup games would continue as scheduled.
A ban on fans attending games was enforced following the 2012 Port Said tragedy, which left more than seventy Ahly fans dead, and was only lifted recently.
There has been long-standing animosity between police forces and the Ultras, but their relationship worsened after the January 25 revolution due to the presence of the hardcore football fans at anti-police protests. Some accuse the Interior Ministry of a failure to respond to the Port Said tragedy, and others go even further in asserting the massacre was a set up to pay the Ultras back for their role in the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Pressure from Ultras groups prompted the Interior Ministry to consider using private security at football games, which some human rights workers have asserted is a way for the ministry to evade responsibility for any violence that occurs during matches.
*Correction: An earlier version of the story put the death toll at twenty-five. This was corrected on 9 February to reflect a more accurate figure.
[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr]