Police accused of ignorance as Egyptian soccer faces up to bleak future

    Story highlights

    • Egyptian football's future looks bleak after nearly 80 people died in a soccer riot
    • Fans of Al-Masry charged at rival supporters of Al-Ahly causing havoc in the stadium
    • Al-Ahly board member accuses police of showing "total ignorance" towards violence
    • Egyptian league suspended and its FA sacked which could mean action from FIFA
    With recriminations and accusations flying in the wake of riots that left 79 football fans dead in the northeastern city of Port Said, the immediate future for Egyptian soccer looks particularly bleak.
    Three days of mourning have begun for the victims of the violence that erupted after local team Al-Masry had beaten Cairo-based Al-Ahly 3-1 on Wednesday, but it will take far longer than that to understand how such a tragedy could have occurred.
    The domestic league was suspended indefinitely after the deaths just hours before Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri sacked the entire leadership of the Egyptian Football Association -- a move that is sure to warrant attention from FIFA.
    Soccer's world's governing body stipulates that governments should not tamper with a national soccer federation's affairs, and an international ban for the Egyptian team could follow.
    FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed his sympathy to the victims' families and also asked for a detailed report on what happened.
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    Given the current confusion about exactly what did take place, he may be waiting a while.
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    According to Al-Ahly board member, Khaled Mortagy, the security forces present in the stadium at Port Said have a lot to answer for.
    "There were huge, even massive security breaches at the game -- the police showed total ignorance," he told CNN.
    "The fans moved like a tsunami, and quickly we were looking at a massacre. We believe that this is something that has been well organized.
    "I'm sure there are some hidden hands behind this. But we can't really see or we cannot really confirm who is behind all that."
    In the wake of the tragedy, a number of Al-Ahly's players have said they are going to retire from the game, but Mortagy hopes they change their mind.
    "(The players) are in a very bad shape in terms of morale. They've seen people die in the dressing rooms, which normally doesn't happen in the sports world. I think they have been under a lot of stress.
    "Al-Ahly has over 60 million fans and supporters. And I don't think that the players will leave these fans because again the fans need them, and they need the fans."
    Blame has also been attached to the aging Port Said stadium, which hosted the fateful game between two of Egypt's biggest clubs.
    James Montague, author of "When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone," a book about football and politics in the Middle East, says many arenas in the country are not fit for the purpose.
    He told CNN: "I've been to many football grounds across Egypt. We're talking about stadiums built in the 1920s and 1930s, big crumbling concrete bowls that have few exits.
    "They are death traps, and this is something that has been waiting to happen.
    "There might be 70,000 allowed in a football stadium but 100,000 people come in, or 40,000 are supposed to be there and 70,000 people get in."
    There were flashpoints between fans when the teams played each other back in April, and Montague says it is inexplicable the authorities on hand at the stadium did not do more to protect fans.
    "At the moment everybody is wondering how and why the police allowed this to happen," he added.
    "In any country in the world, if you have a rivalry between two football teams, and you don't police it, there's likely to be a high degree of violence and probably deaths involved.
    "In this case, for some reason, the police stood back and didn't police the match properly.
    "Obviously the soccer ultras (hardcore fans) had a key role in the revolution, fighting the police and trying to bring down Hosni Mubarak (former Egyptian leader) -- many people are questioning if that is the real reason this wasn't policed properly.
    "The league is a mess and I can't see it resuming anytime soon."