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BRUSSELS — The president of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) said Thursday that football-related rage was not the cause of the bloody events that followed an Egyptian Premier League match in Port Said on Wednesday.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter told Al-Masry Al-Youm he would not make any accusations before the results of an investigation into the incident are announced.
Riots broke out at the Port Said football stadium late Wednesday after the local team, Masry, defeated the Cairo-based Ahly club. Thousands of hardcore football fans, known in Egypt as ultras, supporting Masry invaded the pitch following their victory and clashed with Ahly Ultras, leaving at least 71 dead and at least 313 injured, according to the Health Ministry.
Blatter offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
"This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen," said Blatter in a letter he sent to the Egyptian Football Association.
Blatter added that he spoke with association head Samir Zaher earlier on Thursday to get more details on the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he asked Zaher if the deaths were a result of intentional murder or from a stampede, adding that Zaher promised to provide him with the relevant details.
Declining to comment on the debate over whether Egyptian football should continue, Blatter said the decision is up to the country's security authorities. He did, however, say that sporting events that lead to deaths should not proceed.
Blatter implied the Egyptian Football Association was partially responsible for the incident, saying that the decision to hold a match should only be made if security measures are ensured for players, fans and referees.
He went on to say that any local football association is entitled to cancel a game if it senses any security threat, even if authorities have provided assurances otherwise.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm