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Bid to stop violence at Egypt's stadiums
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 15 - 04 - 2013

CAIRO - With a view to fans, supporters and Ultras groups' recent behaviour at football matches, the Minister of Sports has decided not to let them attend any domestic, Arab or African matches, to ensure the safety of the other supporters and in order to safeguard the sports facilities themselves.
According to soccer experts, the excluding of fans at local, Arab and African competitions is the only band aid, until the situation becomes more stable in the country.
Taha Ismail, a soccer expert, says that the fans should be more aware of the current situation in the country, adding that each club is responsible for its supporters, ensuring that all the fans respect the regulations and commitments of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA).
Ismail points out that fans must also be fully aware that destructive support for their teams will hurt their clubs; if they really love their clubs, they must behave accordingly.
"Fans must be fully aware of what will result from their irresponsible support," he stresses, expressing his surprise that fans should feel angry when they are forbidden from attending the matches, if they are only going to riot if they do attend.
Borg Al-Arab Stadium is demanding that Al-Ahly pay LE500,000 for the damage some of the team's fan caused to the seats in the northern section of the stadium, during the ACL Tuskers match.
Ismail believes that the decision to ban them is a very intelligent one, coming at the right time.
All Egyptian clubs have been ordered to play behind closed doors since the league restarted in February, following last year's stadium tragedy in Port Said, when over 70 Al-Ahly fans were killed at a match between Al-Masry and visiting Al-Ahly.
Former Ismaili star and expert Ali Abou Greisha hints that the absence of the fans at the stadiums is better for them and for their clubs.
"The clubs are the losers in the end, as EFA makes them pay for the damage caused by the crowd," he explains, adding that fans' groups should choose from among themselves the supporters who will attend the game.
"Fans must be aware of the fact that their primary goal is to encourage and support their teams, not to damage pitches and stadiums," Abou Greisha explains.
Zamalek have been fined for allowing fans into a local league match last week, defying security orders that all local games be played behind closed doors.
The Cairo-based club must pay LE30,000 ($4,400) after supporters were spotted by television cameras watching their team beat Ismaili 2-0 in the Egyptian Premier League at the stadium, according to an EFA statement.
The Borg Al-Arab military stadium in Alexandria and a number of other military stadiums refuse to host Al-Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaili matches, because of their fans' attitude.
"The boards of clubs have become powerless and have lost control of the fans. All officials must take a serious stand to overcome this problem," the expert adds, noting that, if the fans want to attend the games, they must behave responsibly.
Haras el-Hedoud technical coach Helmi Touloan says that clubs, especially the popular ones, deserve to be punished.
"If the fans want to attend the matches, they must respect the accepted moral and ethical standards; if not, they should go home and watch their teams on TV," he argues.
The EFA Competitions Committee have decided indefinitely to postpone the Zamalek and Al-Ahly matches in the first week of the second round of the local league against Ittihad of Alexandria and Ghazl el-Mahallah, because the military stadiums refuse to host these games.
Zamalek have also received a letter from the Ministry of Defence, stating that it will not host any games for the team until the club pays the fine imposed because of the damage, estimated at LE1.2 million, when supporters broke 600 chairs during the ACL game.
Zamalek, who were playing before their enthusiastic supporters for the first time in six months, stunned Chad's Gazelle 7-0 on February 17.
Zamalek board member Hazem Emam says that Ultras groups punish their clubs instead of supporting them, because of their behaviour, which leads to the clubs being penalised.
Ayman Younis, a former Zamalek player, believes that the decision will protect the Egyptian clubs from external sanctions.
"The purpose of the Minister of Sports' decision is not to punish the fans or the clubs, but to protect clubs from the sanctions that could be imposed by the CAF or Arab Federation, after what happened when Al-Ahly and Ismaili played against Kenya's Tusker FC and Algeria's USM Alger," Younis discloses.
When Ismaili played Algeria's USM Alger earlier this month in the second leg of the Arab Club Cup at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium, angry Ismaili fans stormed the pitch after the final whistle.

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