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Thursday, February 02, 2012

And you thought England had bad soccer riots....

I have a former colleague from my New York days who jumped ship and joined a large London law firm. A couple of years ago, I was in London and dropped by to see him, and he told me that what he missed most about the US was being able to go to games. He told me that he tried going to one 'football match' in England and never had felt like he was in so much danger as during that match.

On Wednesday night in Egypt, a soccer match between Port Said al-Masry and al-Ahli turned ugly. 73 people are dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

Let's go to the videotape. There will be more after the video.

So what do al-Masry and al-Ahli have against each other?
Angry politicians and sports officials decried a lack of security at the match between Port Said team al-Masry and Al Ahli, one of Egypt's most successful clubs, and blamed the nation's leaders for allowing - or even causing - the tragedy.

Wednesday's trouble flared at the end of a match when al-Masry beat Al Ahli 3-1.

"This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history," Deputy Health Minister Hesham Sheiha told state television.

Witnesses said trouble broke out when Ahli fans unfurled banners insulting Port Said and an Ahli supporter descended onto the pitch carrying an iron bar. Al-Masry fans reacted by pouring onto the pitch and attacking Ahli players. They then turned to the terraces to attack Ahli supporters.

Most of the deaths were among people who were trampled in the crush of the panicking crowd or who fell from terraces, witnesses said.

Live television coverage showed fans running onto the field and chasing Ahli players. A small group of riot police formed a corridor to try to protect the players, but they appeared overwhelmed and fans were still able to kick and punch the players as they fled.
Israel Radio reported that al-Ahli had been heavily favored in the game.

Am I the only one who noticed all those police milling around behind the net when the trouble started? Could they have prevented it?

And note what started it: An insult. There's that Arab Muslim 'honor' again.

And in Cairo, they rioted in 'sympathy.'
Another match in Cairo was halted by the referee after receiving news of the violence in Port Said, prompting fans to set parts of the stadium on fire, television footage showed.
My friend in London is right. In the US, sports is intense and competitive, but it's usually not life or death. People don't usually try to kill each other over it (note - I said US not 'America' in deference to last spring's riots in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup finals). In the US, taking clients and customers to sporting events is part of the business scene.

I'm not aware of anyplace else in the world where that's true. I've never taken a client to a sporting event in Israel, and I've never watched the Zamboni go around here while talking business with a client. I wish sports could be that kind of equalizer here and in other countries. Sadly, it is not.

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At 7:24 AM, Blogger Daniel D said...

Would Egypt teams be barred from international matches as the English were?

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Early on, to the right of the screen, you can see rows of black clad, helmeted riot cops - doing sweet FA!!

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Witch-king of Angmar said...

Blimey! What would your friend have thought if he had gone to a football game in the 1970-ties or 1980-ies? Back then they routinely used knives, broken bottles, metal rods et al. to settle scores. (pun intentional because sometimes it literally was like that)


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