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73 Dead After Egyptian Soccer Match Turns Violent

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

In Egypt today, violence erupted at a soccer game in the northern city of Port Said. At least 73 people are dead. Egyptian officials say a thousand more were wounded, most with concussions and deep cuts.

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, the incident prompted the head of Egypt's soccer federation to indefinitely postpone all future matches of its premier league.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOT)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Egyptian Alhayat TV broadcast the attack that began seconds after the final whistle was blown. Fans of the home team, Al-Masry, which won a rare victory against Egypt's top team, poured onto the field and began attacking rival players and their supporters. Some fans chased players of the rival Al-Ahly team into their dressing room.

Al-Ahly, or the National Club of Cairo, is a perennial powerhouse in Egyptian soccer. Its matches usually draw large crowds. Al-Masry's 3-to-1 victory today over Al-Ahly was the first ever. Egypt's state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the melee that officials say was the worst in Egyptian soccer history. The Egyptian parliament called for an emergency session on the incident.

Violence at soccer games has escalated in the past year. Such attacks are blamed not only on rowdy fans but on Egyptian police officers who fail to provide adequate law enforcement since the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. Security forces in riot gear did attempt to break up the fight at the stadium in Port Said, but were quickly overwhelmed. Officials say police officers were among those killed.

In Cairo, meanwhile, another soccer game was abruptly called off after a fire broke out in the stands. That fire was also blamed on rowdy fans.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR news, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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