After Tahir: The Ultras

The part of the After Tahir panel discussion that stuck out most to me was the discussion of the football fans in Egypt, also known as Ultras. The Ultras are characterized by their synchronization and demonstration during games. They have coordinated cheers, dances, and celebrations. The Ultras are getting attention from both activists and the government as of late. Many activists believe that their methods of assembly and demonstration could be adopted by people demonstrating against their government. Unfortunately the government may think the same thing because they often harass Ultras, taking away banners and arresting leaders of the groups before big games

The Ultras are often the case of mischaracterization. Both the public and government view them in two conflicting ways. The first is that these people are heroes of some kind. Oftentimes they are on the front lines of protests against the government and their experience with large scale, organized, demonstrations is valuable. They are often passionate about the future of their country and as young men they often side with the more progressive activists. They are also seen as potentially dangerous hooligans, as most sports fans are at some point or another. It’s no secret that fights often break out after sporting events, especially soccer, and sometimes those fights lead people to view the fans involved in a strong negative light.

In my opinion, the Ultras lie somewhere in the middle. They are primarily young Egyptian men who love both their club and country. In terms of soccer they may occasionally get violent but they are not really a public concern. However their raucous nature and experience demonstrating can be vital to the continuing progress in Egypt. Are they heroes? Probably not, certainly not in more of a sense than any other protester. However what they are, publicly involved Egyptian citizens, is enough to create some social change.

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After Tahir: The Ultras

Reflections on After Tahrir Conference

EGYPTIAN INSURGENCY SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

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This was a powerful group of films. I felt that they effectively communicated the raw emotion and energy of the January 25 Revolution as well as raised important questions about the future.

For myself, the most impactful of the films were those made by Omar Robert Hamilton. The hand-held, point-of-view documentary style created a visceral, emotional depiction of the revolution that gave the audience a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tahrir Square. The footage of the rocks being thrown and army vehicles running over protesters was hard to watch but also gripping.

Although not about Egypt, it would be awesome to watch the short documentary My Aleppo in class. I think it is a great example of how film can be used to raise awareness about crises.

 

ORGANIZED FOOTBALL FANDOM IN EGYPT

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Abd El Hameed’s analysis of the role of the Ultras soccer club in the January 25 Revolution made me consider the complexity of the revolution in regards to how many groups were involved. She argued that their struggle was political since the stadium in Cairo is a highly politicized space that is often used by political leaders.

The clubs brought organized chants and routines to the revolution, which helped in mobilizing people and lifting spirits. The group also creates an “imagined community” amongst its members and provides a social outlet and structure for young boys. It was interesting to learn that a non-politically oriented group had an important role in the revolution.

 QUESTIONS

Who are the revolutionaries in terms of all of Egypt? Where do the different groups fit in?

How are the Egyptian people confronting trauma caused silence together?

Reflections on After Tahrir Conference

Ultras in Egypt

At the After Tahir Conference the topic of a group known as the Ultras was brought up. It was interesting to hear how a fan-based group was being harassed by police and seen as a political threat. I personally found it hard to understand why because to me, they sounded like a group of men that share a passion for the sport of football. I compared them to the fans that tailgate at the Super Bowl or the passionate fans of the World Cup. There are instead seen as hooligans, even though they aren’t an actual threat. The Ultras perform chants, dances, and light flairs to show their support of their team. The police will often beat them and confiscate their banners and other things that show their support.

I see it as a healthy way for people, specifically men to come together in a positive way. There aren’t fraternities or sororities like there are here, so these groups help young men socialize in a healthy way. The only way I see the Ultras as a possible threat to the government are the large masses of people. If needed these people could easily rally to protest against the government.

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Ultra White Knights
Ultras in Egypt

After Tahrir

After attending the After Tahrir panel conference at 1:30 pm about the Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat with Momen El Husseiny, Omnia Khalil, Linda Herrera, Mozn Hasan and Ranwa Yehia, I realized that in many different aspects of the Egyptians lives they are controlled directly by the government or the powerful forces.

The speech that impacted me the most was the one of the Ultras on the Egyptian football teams. I know for sure that they also exist in the Spanish football teams and people are advised not to sit next to them because they can get very furious, but nothing more than that. However with the uprising in 2011 the Ultras in Egypt were beaten, they were also prevented from wearing the group banner or t-shirts and the leader of the group would be arrested before the game to prevent any type of revolt during these events.

The Egyptian uprising ended up banning the right to protest and occupy civic space, therefore anything the Ultras did would be against the law. Even though they tried to hide the protests by building the chants by voice and performance and creating sound based songs to get back their place in the stadium and the streets, they would still have a great opposition. For example, when they said swearwords this would be seen as much worse than if any other person would say a swearword in a football match.

 “Revolutionist is and act on everyday bases. The idea of silence is a strategic movement of wait. The waiting culture.” – Momen. This comment really made me think that if the Ultras just waited and listened to what was going on maybe the campaign would have been more efficient. Many times we just start saying things without previously investigating about them and that is what takes us to commit errors. In this case I have to say that the Ultras were very brave to stand up on their beliefs no matter what was going on. The stadiums where very politicized and they just wanted a change.

After Tahrir

Organized Football Fandom in Egypt and #ElnenySigns

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The Ultras

One panelist discussed the the Ultras, the premiere football fandom in Egypt, and their relation to Egypt’s militarized state. In February of 2012, a riot broke out in the Port Said stadium during an Egyptian Domestic League football match, resulting in 73 deaths and 73 trials. The riot began with El Masry (home) fans storming the field and attacking El Ahly (away) players, causing the players to seek refuge in the changing rooms while police attempted to control the riot. Brute force was used by the police and the fans, and in the wake of the riots, Egypt’s domestic league was shut down for two years (which eventually became indefinite). Strict policing of football stadiums was set in place and football fans across Egypt were robbed of their outlet to the game.

Leading up to the Port Said riot, the Ultras played a key role in organized political advocacy and even in rebellious street fights. The group has an immensely creative and efficient system of organization and powerful group protest that derives from the organization and cheering of their football fandom. The Ultras’ organization, rowdiness, and effective crowd-rallying performances made the Ultras a target of the militarized state. The state feared the Ultras for other reasons as well: the Ultras had a great nationalist spirit to them, and their strive for a state of pleasure and fun threatened the military’s idea of Egyptian culture and practices of the state. So, when the Port Said riot occurred, the state capitalized on the opportunity to shut down football in Egypt and attempt to sever the Ultras. Determined to regain the stadiums as public space, the Ultras passionately joined the riots and protests of the militarized state.

The Ultras offer the idea of the “imagined state” to the revolution;  their immense football fandom created an imagined sense of community that connects the fans across Egypt with the management and players of their favorite team in an interactive manner. This ability to imagine an idealized state fuels the revolutionists’ abilities to imagine an improved Egyptian government, with strong and progressive ties between state and civilian.

#Elneny Signs

The Egyptian football league closure resulting from the Port Said riot caused Egyptian football professionals to leave the country and seek other professional leagues to play in. One Egyptian nationalist, Mohammed Elneny, who was a successful Egyptian national player in the U21 division was driven to a Swiss league, where he would go on to win the Swiss Super League with his team three consecutive times. In January of this year, Elneny signed with one of the world’s largest clubs and a major club in the British Premiere League, Arsenal. gun__1452767415_elneny2

Elneny has had a tumultuous journey to success and a $17 million contract with the internationally renowned Arsenal. His resiliency to deal with the Egyptian revolution, having to leave his home country at a young age, and still train to become a successful player is truly astounding. Elneny was able to capitalize on his opportunities, opportunities that hundreds of aspiring Egyptians would answer if not for their governments oppression.

Organized Football Fandom in Egypt and #ElnenySigns