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Egyptian football league matches suspended after violence at Cairo stadium kills 22 people

Utathya Nag
Modified 10 Feb 2015, 10:54 IST
Zamalek fans clash with police in Egypt after 22 of them were killed 

The Egyptian authorities have decided to suspend all domestic football matches indefinitely after at least 22 fans were killed in Cairo Stadium after a clash with the police.

The incident occurred before a match between Zamalek and their city rivals ENPPI after the police fired tear gas at the Zamalek fans, who were trying to gain access to the match. The victims were killed in the stampede which followed. The fans accused the police of forcing the crowd through a narrow and enclosed passage.

The Egyptian Premier League was previously suspended in February 2012 after a riot at a match in Port Said killed 74 fans. The league resumed in 2013, but fans were banned from attending the matches up until December. The number of spectators for matches has been regulated and limited since then.

Zamalek fans and police involved in the incident

According to state reports, only 5000 tickets were made available for Sunday’s clash between Zamalek and ENPPI in east Cairo’s 30,000 capacity Air Defense Stadium. Thousands of ticketless Zamalek fans reportedly tried to gain entry which prompted the police action.

The interior ministry said that the fans "attempted to storm the stadium gates by force, which prompted police to prevent them from continuing the assault", thereby setting off the deadly stampede. A police official told the state-run newspaper, al-Ahram, "Because of the stampede, some choked and died from asphyxiation while the rest died from being trampled".

The Zamalek supporters' group, the White Knights, denied police reports that claimed that the stampede began when police fired tear gas at a crowd being forced through a fenced-in passageway which was about 3.7m wide. 

"[The] iron cage inside which most people died was installed a day before the match and it has never been used in any country of the world," a statement from them on Facebook said.

Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has expressed "great sorrow" over the incident and called for the "revealing of the circumstances of the incident and those who are responsible for it".

Despite the violence, which also saw about 20 people injured, the match between Zamalek and ENPPI went ahead and ended in a 1-1 draw.

Published 10 Feb 2015, 10:25 IST
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