Rebels with a Cause

          As El Ahly Sporting Club supporters, the Ultras Ahlawy played an essential role in Egypt’s 2011 Rebellion. Ultras are a type of fanatical sports fan that are known for extreme support of clubs to the extent of violence, they are common in Europe, especially Britain. The members chant phrases such as “together forever” and “we are Egypt” during games displaying a form of nationalism that has been absent from Egypt. The unified group utilized their organization to rally and fight back against the injustices presently plaguing their country.
Public spheres were heavily monitored by the Mubarak regime, but mosques and football pitches were left uncensored (Anderson). The Ultras, founded in 2007, are not a political organization observing the unspoken rule of not mixing football and politics. The members experienced political corruption outside the stadium and endured police brutality inside. Instead of being complacent during the attacks the group employed the hooligan style of fighting on the streets to fight back against the police. The increasing membership legitimized the Ultras as an organization to be feared. In November 2013 Abdel Zaher, a soccer player, gave the four fingered salute in support of the rebellion after scoring a goal and was immediately suspended. Football and politics many not be mixing on the field but its members would be at the center of the revolution.
The Muslim Brotherhood directly represents the values the Ultras oppose. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected in 2012 as Egypt’s first democratically elected president; campaigning himself as a better option to the unpopular Mubarak (Kingsley). Morsi brought the Brotherhood’s Islamic fan base with him into office, making it apparent that the opposing Ultras were high on the regimes watch list and were being closely monitored. The regime warned political parties and the media not to engage with the Ultras (Anderson). The Ultras support the conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood is being funded throughout the US government, amplifying their feelings of injustice.
The Ultras are constantly engaged in the rebellion not because of criticism with a particular politician but because the entire Egyptian state is weak. “Politically, the ultras have been a consistent force of resistance no matter who has held the seat of Egyptian power. They opposed President-for-life Hosni Mubarak; they opposed the first military interregnum; and then they opposed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi (Zirin)”. Mubarak was hated because of his extreme security measure but his removal from power did not equate to the freedom the Ultras thought it would.
The police force and security system of Egypt we’re an extension of Morsi’s regime, serving as the ground force of injustice against the Egyptian people. The Ultras and security forces have clashed even before Mubarak was overthrown. The Ultras wanted police reform making their opinion of the police known through anti-police chants during football matches. On February 2012 during a match at Port Said , Ahly played Zamalek, the team’s rivals. Zamalek fan’s rushed the field and attacked the Ultras, killing 74 fans. The Ultras believe that the police and army facilitated the attack. Constant abuse from the police only motivated the members to actively participate in the rebellion if only to end the police brutality that left them vulnerable to violence and death during football matches.
The general public appreciated the Ultras during the rebellion, they accepted the group as protectors and fighters. The public hated the security forces as well and appreciated the groups protection from the police. The Ultras protected women from sexual assault but still held misogynist views excluding women from joining their ranks. The Ultras relationship with the public is positive, based on both groups shared hatred of the police, army, and fighting together to advance the rights of all Egyptian citizens.
Despite active participation from its members the Ultras have maintained the stance that they are not a political organization. The Ultras as a football support club are not participating in the rebellion but its members are. The organization does not support an official side but does not prevent its members from participating. “A lot of people tried to use us and convince us to join political parties, but we still maintain that we are a football group and we’re not concerned with politics (Anderson).” The Ultras may not be concerned with politics but this does not discourage them from fighting for the friends they lost at Port Said and to end police corruption. “It doesn’t seem like we are achieving the revolution’s goals”, these feelings of discouragement are present because the group feels that no change is going to occur in Egypt (Kingsley). Ultras feel that any government in place is only concerned with power. The empty stadium and lack of fans at games has convinced the El Ahly SC that the Ultras need to abide more closely to not mixing football and politics and return to games.
The Ultras were a central contributor to the 2011 Egyptian revolution. The cost was expensive; resulting in a lost of unity among fans and the Egyptian Premier League being on the verge of cancellation (Montague). The members have a strong desire to resume having football be their number one priority. The future of Egyptian politics is uncertain, but if the need arises again the club’s participation would be essential to ensuring that the rebellion is successful.

Work Cited

Anderson, Sulome. “Rowdies with a Cause.” Foreign Policy. 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Kingsley, Patrick. “THE LONG REVOLUTION OF THE ULTRAS AHLAWY.” Roads and Kingdoms. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Zirin, Dave. “The Fans Who Fan the Flames: Egypt’s Ultras at the Crossroads.” The Nation. 4 July 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.