Egyptian football fans have complained that tight security at the Africa Cup of Nations was designed to exclude traditional fans including Ultras, reports Reuters, as the country roils from its exit from the tournament over the weekend.
Since 2013 the Sisi regime has arrested large numbers of Ultras and labelled them terrorists in what is widely considered to be vengeance for the role they played during the 2011 revolution, where they chanted that the military were “dogs like the police”.
Despite the fact that political expression is supposed to be absent from Egypt’s football stadiums, last year authorities banned spectators after they shouted against the military in the aftermath of the Port Said massacre which killed 74 Al-Ahly fans.
Seventy-four of Al-Ahly’s support group the Ultras were massacred at a match in 2012 after fans from the rival Al-Masry team attacked them with knives and rocks. In 2018 football fans were allowed back to the stadiums with the exception of the Ultras.
During the national team’s first match of the African Cup of Nations, fans chanted the name of Mohamed Aboutrika, former player of the national team and Al-Ahly club, and cheered on the 22nd minute of the match to correspond with his player number.
A witness told Reuters that plainclothes police officers arrested spectators who were chanting Aboutrika’s name. Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Egyptian intelligence campaigned for spectators at the game to cheer on the 77nd minute, in memory of an army officer who was killed in a terror attack and born in 1977, and to counter support for Aboutrika.
Aboutrika is a national hero yet lives in exile in Qatar after Egyptian authorities froze his assets in 2015. He has been accused of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood after he endorsed the organisation in the lead up to the post revolution elections.
In 2008 Aboutrika wore a t-shirt with the words “sympathise with Gaza” written across the front of it and in 2012 held a dying fan after the Port Said massacre.
“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. Is life this cheap?” he wrote in the aftermath.