A soccer match in Port Said, Egypt, between Al-Masry and the nations strongest squad, Al-Ahly, ended up in tragedy when hundred of fans stampede into the field at the end of the 3-1 upset from Al-Masry. The detail of the tragedy are still a bit unclear, but the official report says that at least 76 people have died because of the fights, riots and stampede that happened at the end of the game. It is hard to understand why and how the violence grew so fast. It’s not that the fans rushed into the field, what has taken many people by surprise is how fast the violence escalated and soon enough, Al Masry fans were armed with sticks, rocks, even stadium chairs, hitting the fans. The fight broke out after fans of Al-Masry, the home team in the northeastern city of Port Said, stormed the field. For a moment there it seemed that all they were doing was celebrating a rare 3-1 win against Al-Ahly, Egypt’s top team.
But sure enough, as opposite fans tried to escape through the tunnels of the lower part of the stadium, many fans died from suffocation and injuries produced by the stampede. It looks as if the emergency exits just could keep up with the huge mass of fans trying to desperately escape. Many others fans were plain victims of violent attacks in the outskirts of the stadium. The police officials and the additional private security personal in the stadium not only were outnumbered but didn’t even really tried to stop the madness. State TV showed footage in which the Al-Ahly players were seen running for their locker room, trying to find some protection. In the meantime fistfights broke out among the hundreds of fans swarming the field. You can find some videos of this incident in the Wall Street Journal YouTube Channel. Some men had to rescue a manager from the losing team as he was being beaten, and carried him to safety. This tragedy was the deadliest incident of soccer violence since Oct. 16, 1996, when at least 78 people died and 180 others were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Guatemala City before a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica. Still, it seems that once the official report comes out, the number of fatal victims could increase. Sayed Hamdi, an Al-Ahly player, told reporters that the players had to seek refuge in the locker rooms.
“It was an atmosphere of terrorism,” Hamdi said. What results to be most shocking was the utter incompetence from the police forces to actually control the fans in the initial outburst. By the time there was some sort of reaction and policeman tried to help some of the players, hundreds of other fans were already rioting in the middle of the field, having impromptu fist fights among rivals. Although further details are still to be delivered, Hesham Sheiha, a health ministry official, said in a press release that the fatal victims suffered deep cuts to the head and suffocation from the stampede. The Soccer Tournament has now been suspended indefinitely and an official investigation has been requested by the government.