ULTRAS AHLAWY

EGYPT

As the final whistle blew in Port Said, Egypt, on February 1, 2012, 19-year-old Ahmed Sayid Amin saw his team, Al Ahly, start sprinting for the dressing room. Bursting onto the pitch behind them, thousands of fans for rival side El Masry were running across the turf, straight for the Al Ahly stands. The police stood back. Then the lights went out. Amin and hundreds of other Ultras Ahlawy, hardcore supporters of Cairo’s Al Ahly football club, were assaulted with batons, rocks, pieces of glass, fireworks, sticks, flares, swords and knives. Some fans, attempting to escape, found the stadium exits had been welded shut. Amin’s best friend Anas Mohy El-Din tried to escape by running to the top of the terraces. He was found there later, strangled to death with a scarf. In all, 74 Al Ahly fans were murdered. “It was a massacre,” says Amin, “a trap.”

It may have been revenge. Formed in 2007, Ultras Ahlawy were little known until February 2011, when they fought to protect revolutionaries in Tahrir Square from police brutality and camel-mounted thugs. “We have always protested against the tyranny of the Ministry of Interior,” says Amin. “And also against the way police treat football fans in Egypt.” Shortly after the Port Said incident, Egyptian authorities banned spectators from domestic league matches. Now, all games are played in empty stadiums. “Football never affected the political scene,” says Amin. “Fans did.”