Headline: Ultras in Egypt: The good, bad and ugly
Location: Cairo Stadium, Cairo, Egypt, Africa
Article Synopsis: A recent phenomenon in the Egyptian football arena is the emergence of the Ultras, who have been involved in many violent and drug-related incidents. In this article we interview one of the Ultras founders, people who criticise the Ultras and an official member of the football federation for insight into this growing phenomenon and the impact it has on football in Egypt.
Opening Paragraph: Much has changed in the last three years in the cafes where Egyptian football fanatics would sit around and talk about their beloved sport. Nowadays, instead of discussing Ahli and Zamalk rivalry or the continuous failure of their national team to reach the World Cup, they talk about the increasing influence of the so-called Ultras in the Egyptian football arena.
Ultras, Egypt, hooliganism, violence, drug addict, alcohol, Aahli, Zamalk, police, government, Egyptian football federation, world cup 1990.
Language: English, Arabic
Text (English) :
Ultras in Egypt: The good, bad and ugly
By: Dr. Amin Kheir
Much has changed in the last three years in the cafes where Egyptian football fanatics used to sit around and talk about their beloved sport. Nowadays, instead of discussing Ahli and Zamalek rivalry or the continuous failure of their national team to reach the World Cup, they talk about the increasing influence of the so-called Ultras in the Egyptian football arena. Many young Egyptian football fans have been arrested due to violent behaviour in the stadiums and it’s grown into an outright war between Egyptian authorities and these Ultras.
Ultras have been labelled by some a bunch of drug addicts who are destroying the name and thrill of the game in a country that is one of the leading nations in African football. And this in spite of the fact that most Ultras members are well educated and have a great passion for the sport. It’s not all bad though. This passion has paid off significantly as the mentality of regular Egyptian football fans has been shifted dramatically. These fans used to follow their teams for important matches only, but now, thanks to Ultras groups such as Ultras Ahlawi, Zamalek or 300 Tanta, the Egyptian stadiums have attracted the crowds and are packed for any match, whether a friendly or a cup final.
Ultras is a Latin word deriving from ultra, meaning beyond in English, thus describing a new form of sports team supporters renowned for their fanatical support and elaborate displays. The behavioral tendency of ultras groups include the use of flares, vocal support in large groups, defiance of the authorities and the display of banners at football stadiums. Their actions can be extreme and are often influenced by racial and political ideologies, as well as poor performance by their team.
The first organised ultras group was founded in 1950 in the former state of Yugoslavia for a group of fans of a club called Hajduk Split. After that it was introduced in other parts of Europe, especially in Italy where many Ultras groups were formed such as Milan’s, the Fedelissimi Granata in Turin and the Sampdoria Ultras who were the first to call themselves “Ultras”.
“The first official ultras group in Egypt was only formed on the 13th April 2007 by Al-Ahli supporters, largely because the government is against organised youth unions,” explains the Vice President and co-founder of the Ultras Ahlawy He requested to remain anonymous and off-film as he said that the Ultras are in a state of war with the authorities in Egypt, especially the police. “Many of our group members have been arrested, because some are linking us with hooliganism and other bad things, that we don’t do,” he said.
He was talking about the former Egyptian international footballer Ahmed Shober, who is also the former Vice President of the Egyptian football federation, current Member of Parliament and the host of many high profile TV shows in the region. Shober is accusing the Ultras of acts of hooliganism, especially when Al-Ahli played Ismaeli two years ago and violence broke out resulting in damage of the stadium seats. Again when Al-Ahli played Alzamalk recently a group of fans verbally abused Alzamalk player Shekabala.
In the defense of his group, the Vice President of Ultras Ahlawy said, “These are all false accusations and they were never proved. We are here to defend our team and to support it, we are not hooligans! Have you ever heard of hooligans who hold their meetings in public?” He went on to say that the incidents were random and individual acts. On the issue of drugs and alcohol, he reiterated that all the Ultras are high school and university students or graduates who know what is good for their health.
“We don’t have any official accusation against Ultras groups and as long as they don’t cross the red lines we will not stand in their way or have any problem with them,” said Magdi Abdelghani, a former Egyptian international player (the only Egyptian player who scored in a World Cup during the 1990 match against Holland). He is a current member at the Egyptians Football Federation.
Whether they are true hooligans, a bunch of addicts or genuine football fans the Ultras groups in Egypt have stirred the silent water in a region where football is not just a game for fun, but a lifestyle.