Over the past 4 years, the Egyptian Premier league has been stopped twice, and supporters have been banned from attending the majority of games. Ahead of their African Champions League clash against Mohgreb Tetouan thousands of Al Ahly’s supporters attended the clubs training session. They are banned from their ground following repeated instances of violence between the Ultras Ahlawy and state forces.
Egyptian football has had a rough few years. Since the beginning of the revolution in 2011 the Ultras of Egypt’s clubs have played a pivotal role in effecting social change in their country. They famously protected protesters during the initial battles in Tahrir square, proving a formidable force against the state police. Their vile chants about the SCAF and police, rung through downtown Cairo. They could appear in moments, attack with skill and accuracy, and leave just as they came.
Al Ahly is the third most successful club in African football, with the third most international trophies in the world behind AC Milan and Boca Juniors. Their Ultras, Ahlawy, have become notorious for their involvement in the political shifts happening throughout Egypt.
In February 2012, Ultras Ahlawy from around the country converged on Port Said, to attend a match between teams Ahly and Masry. The teams were longtime rivals and tension was expected. The lights shut off in the second half of the game, and the Masry fans charged the field. In the ensuing fight, 72 Ultras Ahlawy were killed. Although most people blame the security forces for the tragedy, 11 supporters have been sentenced to death, while 70 others are awaiting trial.
In February, 27 supporters were killed after the Derby between Zamalek and Al-Ahly turned into a massacre, when rival supporters were trapped in the stadium tunnel, and shot by police. Since, supporters from various clubs throughout the country have been put on trial accused of being a part of a “terrorist group”.
Robbed of their political worth, the Ultras have returned to their roots, a football fan club. Their meetings now focus on football, traveling to games, organizing chants, and the occasional post-game brawl. Now they have new events to attend, the birthdays of the lost and the anniversaries of revolutionary battles.
Al Ahly are hoping to turn around the defeat in the first leg, beating Moghreb Tatouan to qualify for the next round. Although the grounds will be empty, the self-dubbed “Masters of the World” will know that the Ultras Ahlawy will be supporting from outside the walls of the 74,000 capacity Cairo Stadium.