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Video: Port Said pitch riot leaves 74 people dead

By Alastair Beach in Cairo

At least 74 people were killed and hundreds more injured last night when a top-flight football match ended in one of the worst sporting disasters in Egypt's history.

Catastrophic scenes broke out at a stadium in the eastern city of Port Said when the local team scored a rare victory over Al-Ahli, one of Egypt's most successful clubs.

Following the final whistle, hundreds of fans stormed on to the pitch in frenzied celebration. Supporters of the local Port Said club, Al-Masry, chased Al-Ahli's players into their dressing room tunnel, while others threw stones and let off fireworks at the visiting supporters.

One of Al-Ahli's players, Mohamed Aboutreika, rang the team's own television channel to describe the violence as it unfolded. He said Masry supporters invaded the pitch after the referee had blown his whistle, despite their team winning 3-1.

"This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no security and no ambulances," he said. "I call for the Premier League to be cancelled. This is horrible situation and today can never be forgotten."

As the clashes intensified, more members of the Al-Ahli squad called into the TV channel from their dressing room to describe what was happening. "The security forces left us, they did not protect us. One fan has just died in the dressing room in front of me," said Mohamed Aboutreika during one phone call.

"People have died; we are seeing corpses now. There are no security forces or army personnel to protect us," added the attacking midfielder Mohamed Barakat. "It is our fault because we played that match. The authorities are afraid to cancel the league because they just care about money – they do not care about the lives of people."

Last night it was not immediately clear how so many fans were killed, but the manager of Port Said's el-Amiri hospital said some had died in a stampede while others suffocated.

An employee at a Port Said morgue told the Associated Press that security officers were among the dead.

According to Hesham Sheiha, deputy health minister, most of the injuries were caused by concussions and deep cuts.

Anger was growing last night about the enormous loss of life. Politicians blamed the lack of security during the game, even accusing the nation's leaders of allowing the tragedy to happen.

"This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history," Mr Sheiha told state television.

The chairman of the Egyptian Football Association, Samir Zaher, announced that the nation's Premier League had been postponed as a result of the deadly clashes.

Since the revolution there have been a number of flare-ups at football matches in Egypt, some of which have been attributed to the lack of police officers in the wake of last year's uprising.

Following the outbreak of violence in Port Said, another football match in Cairo between Al-Ismailia and Zamalek was cancelled as a mark of respect.

Images on state television showed parts of the Cairo stadium on fire, with the presenter saying that angry Zamalek fans had torched the stands in protest at the cancellation. As a result of last night's violence, two clubs from the port city of Alexandria said they were withdrawing from the Premier League.

Belfast Telegraph


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