Egyptian fans must be allowed to return to the Curva
Youssef El Hadidy on his KingFut.com debut recommends three steps for Egyptian fans, clubs and security officials to follow for the supporters to return to their rightful places: The stadiums.
I had an article ready I thought that I thought would be appropriate as my debut; it was a tactical one about the club I supported since I was a kid (Al-Ahly). Then I thought to myself, “what’s the importance of tactics or even football itself is if the most important pillar of the game isn’t there? The fans.”
Since the Port Said massacre when 74 fans lost their lives in February 2012, fans have been strangers to Egyptian arenas, as only in a handful of games and under strict security measures were fans allowed in. Recently, Al-Ahly and Zamalek fans rebelled against the policy and decided to attend their teams’ games. I believe that the top concern of all the members of the football family in Egypt must be the immediate return of fans to their place in the stands, especially in light of World Cup qualifying, with the Egyptian national team on the verge of its first World Cup finals appearance since 1990. However, any return must ensure that necessary measures are taken to not ever lose another football fan again.
For starters, football matches should be played in normal stadiums, not military ones. Having a non-seated area in normal stadiums, for instance Cairo International Stadium, would be a benefit for both the Ultras groups, hardcore fans of Egypt’s biggest clubs, and the security forces. Fans all over the world demand non-seated areas where they are allowed to chant, celebrate and even use some pyrotechnics without being accused of destroying property or disturbing other fans. I think that Egypt should send some officials to Germany to learn how these measures can be implemented, as most of the stadiums there have non-seated areas.
Clubs must encourage fans to buy seasonal tickets, the likes of which are very popular in places like Tunisia. Fans holding seasonal tickets would be allowed in stadiums using only their personal ID, minimizing the time fans have to spend getting into matches, hence increasing average attendance in league games.
Seasonal tickets would also appease security officials, as Ultras – often viewed by security as trouble-makers – would be more easily identified. Clubs might also have policies to ensure maximum attendance in league games; for example 30 minutes before the game seasonal ticket holders that failed to arrive at the stadium would have their tickets available at the door for other fans. I also suggest that Ultras groups be given a bigger role in the distribution process, though clear and reliable buyer data must be available for the club and the police.
Dedicated stadiums for Al-Ahly and Zamalek is a dream of every fan of the Cairo giants. Having a stadium owned by the club might be the end of all fan issues in Egypt, though this may still be far-fetched considering Egypt’s ongoing economic woes. However there could be an easier solution that is worth considering, especially for the Cairo giants. I believe that the boards of both clubs must negotiate with the armed forces to buy the Millitary Academy Stadium, the Air Defense Stadium and/or Tala’a El-Gaish Stadium. That could be followed-up by a remodeling process that would result in higher capacities, as the state already owns Cairo International Stadium and Borg El-Arab stadium in Alexandria among others. Even smaller, though historical, clubs like Montakhab El-Suez would benefit greatly from a similar stadium acquisition.
Some people say that the 74 fans who lost their lives in Port Said died because of politics; but I’d rather believe that they died to give Egypt a better football experience. They died to teach fans in North Africa and especially Egypt that there is a huge difference between a rival and an enemy. I would like to end my debut article by asking you, regardless of your country, beliefs and the team you support, to remember the 74 football martyrs. Remember what they died for. They didn’t die for empty stands and matches played behind closed doors in military stadiums, they died for better football in Egypt.
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