Problems on hold
The terrorism of football fans
Egypt’s hands are now full battling Islamist terrorism, a fierce enemy that has forgone all honour and patriotism
, and has no qualms about targeting unarmed civilians or security men on duty. The past few weeks saw the police storm the villages of Dalga in Minya and Kirdassa in Giza to purge them of the terrorists who had imposed their dominion over both villages in retaliation for the break-up by the security forces of the six-week-long Islamist sit-ins in Cairo. The villagers had to endure the scourge of the terrorist Islamists who in their arrogance presumed they could isolate Dalga and Kirdassa, take their residents hostage and remain immune to State authority.
As in every place in Egypt where Islamist terrorism takes hold, the State has confronted the terrorists in Dalga and Kirdassa and vowed to leave only after wiping out their strongholds and imposing security and the rule of the law. This is no piece of cake; even after the security raid of the two villages, a number of the elements of evil are still on the run, threatening the villagers.
We all heaved a sigh of relief when the police prised Dalga and Kirdassa out of the hands of the Islamist terrorists, but this is not the end; the battle against terrorism is still on. Whoever thinks, however, that the suffering of this country at the hands of outlaw, violent activity would be achieved once Islamist terrorism is finished off needs to rethink. There are still in Egypt groups that threaten the community and defy the law, and get away with it. I know that confronting crime in Sinai, Dalga and Kirdassa has topped the list of priorities of the Egyptian State during the current period but, precisely in light of the State’s assiduous efforts to uphold its prestige and battle outlaw activity, it is important to bring to light problems that have been so far placed on hold.
What would you say about the brutality of the groups who call themselves “The Ultras”, or “The White Knights”? Do you remember the Black Block? All these groups emerged and were left to grow wild without any confrontation on the part of the State. Problems are born slight and can be easily tackled, but when they are left to aggravate, they get out of control and can only be confronted at huge cost and effort. It has become the custom for football fans to form cheering leagues, give themselves names and adopt certain uniforms to distinguish themselves as they cheer on their favourite team. But can anyone in his or her right mind imagine that this ‘cheering’ should drift into disturbing, violent practises yet no one should strive to stop them there and then? Dealing leniently with the football fan violations—be they verbal, physical or the chaotic raiding of courts with explosives and fireworks—opens the doors wide for more chaos to spill over into streets, public property, roads, bridges, public transportation and even to airports.
Why the State laxity in dealing with the terrorism of the Ultras, White Knights and other frenzied youth groups who misunderstand sports and sports spirit, and pride themselves on exercising violence, terrorising peaceful civilians, and successfully defying the law? The gravest problem is that their clubs rejoiced when they emerged, thinking that they will cheer their teams on, and turned a blind eye to the chaos they created, and overlooked their copying of the British Hooligans. The violence and chaos of the Hooligans inside or outside England has them now very closely monitored and firmly countered wherever they go. Some European States have banned the Hooligans and their likes from setting foot on their soil.
The ferocity of the Ultras and the White Knights in Egypt is getting out of bounds, especially after they bared their teeth and took to sending threats to anybody who differs with them. They started moving into roads and streets, blocking traffic, terrorising the peaceful and seizing buildings. But why not, as long as nobody stops or counters them? Is the State still insensible to this gruesome threat? Do the security authorities still see the matter as a local issue between the clubs and their fans? I hope they wake up.
29 September 2013