At least 74 people were killed during brutal fighting Wednesday between fans of rival soccer clubs in Port Said, Egypt, according to state media. Video of the riot, seen above, was almost immediately posted to YouTube and spread around the country and the world. Simultaneously, news about the violence hit Twitter:
How crazy is this scene! Port Said fans running after Ahly team. Massive fight on the field.
— Aya el Batrawy (@ayaelb) February 1, 2012
Some Egyptians believe that the riots were a premeditated attack tied to Egyptian politics. The country is politically volatile, after overthrowing longtime president Hosni Mubarak last year. Rumors about alleged political motivation for the soccer riots spread on social media:
No body on the street believes this was an organic fight, they all think this was planned
— Shahira Abouellail (@fazerofzanight) February 1, 2012
Twitter users helped break the news that some of the injured were being brought back to Cairo:
— Dima Khatib أنا ديمة (@Dima_Khatib) February 2, 2012
The riots broke out during a soccer match in the Egyptian city of Port Said between teams El Masry and Al Ahly. At least 156 people were injured, and more deaths are feared a possibility.
Violence erupted when fans of El Masry — Port Said’s home team — ran onto the field after a 3-1 upset against premier Egyptian team Al Ahly. El Masry fans hurled stones and chased players and fans of the rival team, who bolted for the exits. According to a health ministry official, most of the deaths were caused by concussions, head wounds and suffocation due to the stampede.
The event is the most deadly soccer violence in the world since 1996, when 78 people died and about 180 others were injured during a stampede at a Guatemala City stadium.
One player told the Associated Press that the Port Said riots were like a “war.”
“This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances,” the player told his team’s TV channel.
Another player, Al Alhy’s goalkeeper, told Egyptian ONtv that there’s “no way” any of his teammates would play again after seeing so many people lose their lives on Wednesday.
According to Al Jazeera, at least 52 people have been arrested by Egpytian authorities in connection to the violence as of Thursday morning.
Later on Wednesday, in a separate incident, a Cairo match between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek was canceled because of the violence in Port Said. Upset fans lit part of the stadium on fire in protest, but the blaze was brief and caused no injuries. Video of that event was also shared on YouTube:
On Thursday, crowds gathered in Tahrir Square (home of the anti-Mubarak revolution one year ago) to show their anger about the riots and the police’s handling of the clash. Some Egyptians and media outlets have set up livesteams, allowing the world to watch events unfold over the Internet. Livestreams were heavily used during the height of last year’s protests in Egypt and have since become part of protests worldwide.
The Egyptian cabinet and parliament are holding emergency meetings, while the governor of Port Said has already stepped down. Top members of the Egyptian Parliament are accusing the government, run by the military, of allowing violence to escalate as an excuse to extend martial law.
“This tragedy is a result of intentional reluctance by the military and the police,” said a politician from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party.
“This is a black day for football,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in a statement responding to the event. “Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen. I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured following a match in Port Said, Egypt.”