Those soccer games can be deadly.
A soccer match in Egypt turned deadly when fans rushed the field after the home team won an unexpected victory over the best team in Egypt on Wednesday, setting off clashes and a stampede that left at least 74 people dead and 1,000 injured in a Mediterranean port city.
It was the worst incident of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996. One player said it was “like a war.”
State TV reported that fans also set fire to the main stadium in Cairo after a soccer game between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek teams was called off because of the violence in Port Said, but nobody was injured. Stadium employees at the Cairo stadium said some of the bleachers were set ablaze, but firefighters put it out before it caused much damage.
The melee broke out after fans of Al-Masry, the home team in Port Said, stormed the field after a rare 3-1 win against Al-Ahly, Egypt’s top team. Al-Masry supporters hurled sticks and stones as they chased players and fans from the rival team, who ran toward the exits to escape, according to witnesses.
Egypt’s Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the country’s ruling military council, ordered two helicopters be sent to the area, to fly out some of the visiting Al Ahli soccer team and its fans, military sources said.
The helicopters will transfer the injured to military hospitals, the sources said.
Hesham Sheiha, a health ministry official, said most of the deaths were caused by concussions, deep cuts to the heads and suffocation from the stampede.
Mohammed Abu Trika, a player with Al-Ahly, told the team’s station criticized the police for standing by and not intervening in the violence.
“People here are dying and no one is doing a thing. It’s like a war,” he said. “Is life this cheap?”