By The Associated Press
CAIRO (AP) — Soccer fans rushed the field after the home team won an unexpected victory over Egypt’s top squad Wednesday, setting off clashes and a stampede that left at least 73 people dead and 1,000 injured in a Mediterranean port city, officials said.
It was the worst incident of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996.
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.
State TV showed footage in which the Al-Ahly players were seen rushing for their locker room as fist fights broke out among the hundreds of fans swarming on to the field. Some men had to rescue a manager from the losing team as he was being beaten. Black-clothed police officers stood by, appearing overwhelmed.
Egypt’s state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, and the Egypt Football Association ordered an indefinite suspension of the annual championship. The parliament said it would convene an emergency session.
State TV reported the casualty toll, citing a health ministry official. A medic in the Port Said morgue, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information, gave the same figures and said some of the dead in the clashes were security officers.
It was the deadliest incident of soccer violence since Oct. 16, 1996, when at least 78 people died and 180 others were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Guatemala City before a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica.
One witness said people threw stones, sticks and bottles at their rivals and injured some players.
The witness was speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution. He said the atmosphere was already tense in the field before the game as one Al-Ahly fan raised a banner insulting supporters of the home team.
The players were later taken to the locker room for protection, Sayed Hamdi, an Al-Ahly player, told state TV. “It was an atmosphere of terrorism,” said Hamdi.
Hesham Sheiha, a health ministry official, told state TV, most of the deatsh were caused by concussions, deep cuts to the heads and suffocation from the stampede.