Egypt’s ultras: Alive and still kicking
Football supporters will be the revolutionary vanguard, said Karl Marx never:
While football fans in Western countries have never been known for their revolutionary spirit, ultras in the Middle East are renowned for their political participation and have often been the driving force behind popular protest. In the past decade, football culture has helped to mobilize crowds from Egypt and Tunisia to Turkey and Yemen. And following crackdowns on them in recent years, the groups may not be dead and buried just yet, James Dorsey writes in Modern Diplomacy.
Football is the opiate of the masses: Supporters of Al Ahly (Ultras Ahlawy) and Zamalek (Ultras White Knights) were some of the most active participants in Egypt’s unrest this decade, becoming involved in the 2011 revolution, the anti-Morsi demonstrations and protests post-2014. But in 2018 both groups decided to unilaterally shut down their organizations citing safety concerns, and asked to negotiate with the government over releasing detained fans. “The ultras are despite and don’t see a bright future. They hope for a reconciliation to get their fellow members out of prison,” a local journalist said.
Ultras of the world unite: But sources close to ultras groups have revealed that the ultras may not stay dormant for long. “This is a new generation. It’s a generation that can’t be controlled. When the opportunity arises, they will do something bigger than we ever did,” a founding member of one of Egypt’s ultras groups said. “Things will eventually burst. When and where nobody knows. But the writing is on the wall,” another source said.