Egypt Independent

Canal cities organize nightly football matches to defy curfew

In defiance of the state of emergency declared amid unrest in Suez Canal Zone cities, some activists are organizing football matches during curfew hours.

President Mohamed Morsy declared a month-long state of emergency in canal cities on Sunday, including a 9 pm–6 am curfew, in response to protest violence that has claimed at least 53 lives in several governorates.

Clashes in cities such as Cairo and Suez have stemmed from protests against the government and the Muslim Brotherhood on the 25 January revolution anniversary. In Port Said, demonstrators protested a court verdict sentencing 21 people to death over violence following a football match between Cairo's Ahly and Port Said's Masry teams last year

The governors of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said reduced the curfew hours in their cities Wednesday, pushing them back to 1 am or 2 am. It was unclear whether the football matches would also be moved later to continue defying the curfew.  

"The idea [for the football tournament] was welcomed by the sons of the three canal cities, who said it was a creative idea to resist authoritarianism …" said Hany Mahdy, one of the organizers in Port Said.

Hundreds of fans and members of revolutionary groups recently attended a match in Ismailia, in which a team named "Revolution" beat a team called "Shater" 5–0.

"A number of military officers have expressed desire to participate in the games and offered to informally host the matches in Armed Forces stadiums, but the organizers [refused], stressing that the message must be clear in streets and squares," Mahdy told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

He said teams made up of young players would travel between the three cities for matches and television stations would also be invited to broadcast the games.

Port Said football fans are also preparing for the matches.

"If the Armed Forces expressed willingness to participate, they would be put on the schedule of matches," said Ali al-Saify, the leader of the Green Eagles, an ultras fan club affiliated with the official league team Masry.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm