At least 22 people were killed in a stampede outside of a Cairo soccer stadium after a confrontation with the police, who would not allow any more fans into the stadium. The stampede began after police deployed tear gas in an attempt to keep people from entering the stadium.
According to Reuters, the incident happened during a league match between the Cairo clubs Zamalek and Enppi. Witnesses say that the altercation happened after security personnel blocked the entrance to the stadium. Fans then attempted to push their way through the barricade to gain entrance. As fans began to push forward, police deployed tear gas to keep them from entering. However, the tear gas caused a stampede. The public prosecutor’s office says that a total of 22 people were killed in the stampede, with many of them dying from suffocation underneath the chaos while others were trampled to death.
Ironically, the confrontation and deaths occurred after Egyptian authorities began an attempt to lessen the crowd restrictions placed on soccer matches. The New York Times reports that an incident in February of last year at a soccer match left 70 dead and the Egyptian government placing a ban on fans at soccer games. However, officials were attempting to loosen those restrictions by allowing 5,000 fans a place at the Zamalek and Enppi game.
“The Egyptian authorities became so worried about their inability to control the crowds that for the past three years they have banned fans from soccer games, forcing teams to play in virtually empty stadiums. The violence on Sunday was set off in part by an attempt to begin loosening those restrictions, allowing the sale of just 5,000 tickets to the public, according to reports in the official state news media.”
As the game began at 6 p.m., officials say thousands of Zamalek fans, who did not have tickets, tried to force their way into the stadium. Police say they were left with no other option than to use the tear gas when people began pressing their way into the stadium. Reports indicate that approximately 6,000 fans were involved in the deadly stampede.
Some citizens, however, say the whole gruesome ordeal was the result of the police actions. One man recalls that a 7-year-old little boy fell into the crowd and was trampled to death after police barricaded about 5,000 fans into an “enclosed corridor.” A well-known White Knights leader using the online alias Yassir Miracle claims that police barricaded the fans into the corridor and began shooting them with tear gas. Yassir says exits were blocked and people had nowhere to run. Another man who says he was at the soccer game says that police continued to shoot the fans with tear gas and bird shot as they tried to flee.
“Ambulances arrived after one hour and the police continued to run after us and shoot us with tear gas and bird shot around the stadium in the desert.”
Even with the mass casualties outside of the Cairo soccer stadium, the Zamalek and Enppi soccer match was played to completion.
[Image Credit: Ahmed Abd El-Gwad / El Shorouk newspaper]