Egypt suspends soccer league after deadly pregame melee

At least 24 soccer fans died in encounter with police on Sunday
(Image credit: Associated Press/YouTube)

On Sunday night, the cabinet of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi indefinitely suspended Egypt's national soccer league, hours after at least 25 soccer fans were killed during a confrontation with police at a suburban Cairo stadium. The dead were hard-core fans, or Ultras, of the Zamalek Club. The death toll is expected to rise.

After a deadly 2012 riot at a soccer game in Port Said, in which 74 people died, Egypt largely shut fans out of the games; for Sunday's match, they sold only 5,000 tickets. Ticketless fans gathered outside anyway, and Egypt's interior minister originally said "the Zamalek fans tried to get in by force, and we had to prevent them from damaging public property." State media later blamed the deaths on "a stampede" when more than 6,000 Ultras "tried to break in." The Zamalek fans, or White Knights, say police incited the stampede by firing tear gas into a crowded corridor jammed with fans.

Ultras were often in the front lines of the protests that ultimately unseated President Hosni Mubarak, and are known for their run-ins with police. These deaths are a real black eye for Sissi, soccer blogger James M. Dorsey tells The New York Times. "It becomes increasingly difficult to argue that you have re-established security and law and order when you can't afford to open the stadiums," he said, adding that authoritarian government have a particularly hard time consulting soccer stadiums. The Associated Press has some images of the incident below. —Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.