TheNationalUAE - 1/13/2018 3:13:03 AM - GMT (+2 )
Al Ahly's players celebrate winning the Egyptian Super Cup football match between Al-Ahly and Al Masry at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, City of al-Ain, Abu Dhabi. Mahmoud Khaled/ EPA
One of the worst scars in Egyptian football began to heal when rival Egyptian football teams Al Ahly and Al Masry faced each other for the first time in front of fans in Al Ain, since a deadly stadium riot that left more than 70 fans dead.
The match ended with a 1-0 victory for Al Ahly. It was held on Friday at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium in Al Ain where 23,739 Egyptian football fans and others gathered to watch the Egyptian Super Cup match between the two clubs.
Al Ahly won after a tough game, where both teams failed to score goals in the two halves of the game. Al Ahly scored the first goal during the extra time.
The Friday game was the first time the two teams played in front of fans since the tragic night when 74 people were killed in clashes between rival fans following a football match between top-tier clubs Al Ahly and Al Masry in the Egyptian city of Port Said.
The National spoke with a cross-section of Egyptian fans to touch their pulse and gauge their opinions about the future of Egyptian football.
Egyptian Ahmed Jamal, a 33-year-old Al Masry fan, said that although some of Al Ahly fans used some insults to belittle Al Masry team and their fans, there was no chance for any trouble.
Mr Jamal, who works as a sales manager in Abu Dhabi, said: “The tragedy which happened in 2012 is attributed to chaos, lack of security following the January 25 revolution and fans exchanged insults that led fans of both teams to a moment of insane. Al Ahly fans tried to stir up Al Masry fans, but the situation was under control and there was no chance for violence, especially there were a few number of Al Masry fans."
Mr Jamal heard some of the insults from Al Ahly fans during the match.
Ihab Sleem, 30-year-old Al Ahly supporter, said: “I watched the match that took place in Egypt, where dozens of people were killed. Some of the people who were killed in the match that took place in 2012 were my friends and colleagues in the University.”
Mr Saleem, who works in the marketing industry and has been living in the UAE for six years, said that fanaticism in football is common worldwide and that he did not expect any form of violence the Friday match.
“The well-organisation of the match and security measures are extremely different from those in Egypt. For instance, fans of Al Ahly team are sitting and communicating with Al Masri fans. This will never happen in Egypt. If the same football match took place in Egypt, there would be a chance for fans to get involved in a fight."
Mrs Samira tahat, 35, a Jordanian mother of a 12-year-old girl, and two boys, in their 20s, said that they planned to attend the match and thought they can get tickets online and that it won’t be that crowded. “I tried to buy tickets on Friday morning, but I couldn’t because the tickets were sold out. My husband and I spoke to some friends and relatives who managed to provide us with some tickets.”Al Ahly player Saad Samir celebrates winning the Egyptian Super Cup football match between Al Ahly and Al Masry. Mahmoud Khaled/ EPA
Mrs Tahat, who lives nearby the stadium in Al Ain, said :“We were a bit concerned that some football fans would cause troubles. We hoped they wouldn’t.”
A few days ahead the Friday match, Abu Dhabi police called on fans to commit to a civilised manner and positive cheering as well as to cooperate with police forces to maintain public security.
Police rolled out a massive security plan to ensure everyone’s safety, mobilising 15 security forces, including anti-riot police, task forces, air ambulance and canine units. Few security men were deployed in the stage where fans were seated.
Al Ahly and Al Masry last met in November, when Al Ahly won 2-0. The match was played behind closed doors with no spectators at stadium to avoid possible clashes between the fans of the two teams.
Al Ahly qualified for the Super Cup after winning the Egyptian League and Egypt Cup last season, while Al Masry qualified after being the Egypt Cup runner-up.
The organising committee of the Egyptian Super Cup game between top-tier Egyptian clubs Al Ahly and Al Masry decided that the final match be held in the UAE, instead of Egypt, to avoid any possible scenario of violence.
Since 2012, Egypt's premier league championship had been split into two groups to ensure Ahly and Masry never played against each other, except in a final. But in 2015, the league reverted to a single group, bringing the two teams face to face once again but the game was played without fans.
Egyptian Ahmed Metwali, a 30-year-old Al Ahly fan, said: “I was looking forward to watching a good match being played in good faith. We do not to want see scenarios similar to what happened in Port Said six years.”
He expressed hope that Egyptian football would recover and the ban of spectators would be lift.
Hamdi Imam, 25, an Al Masry fan, was happy that the game was well organised and no single violent incident was reported. “The horrors of the Port Said match are seared into the collective consciousness of Egyptian football fans. But we want to turn a new page in the history of the Egyptian football.”
Majdi Salama, a 37-year-old Egyptian engineer, said football fans in Egypt have been involved in a series of clashes, the Al Ain match between Al Ahly and Al Masry was smooth and No incidents of violence were reported. He was optimistic that Egyptian football would regain its momentum.
“ I hope the two teams will open a new chapter in their relationship and look ahead for a better playing and healthy competition," he said.