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Egypt’s Ultras: Revolutionaries to villains?

The Ultras, decisively active during the protests, are now being blamed by some in the media for contributing to chaos in the country.
Ultras, or hardcore fans, of Egypt's Al Ahly sit atop a bus as riot police cordon off the road in front of the buses of Ultras before the derby CAF Champions League soccer match between Egypt's Zamalek and Al Ahly at El-Gouna stadium in Hurghada, about 464 km (288 miles) from the capital Cairo July 24, 2013.  REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh  (EGYPT - Tags: SPORT SOCCER CIVIL UNREST) - RTX11WZG
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Until a few years ago, it was common to say that Egypt’s political problem was that the two organized parties with the highest popularity were Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the country’s most prominent sports clubs, which also field the biggest football teams.

In 2007, Ultras Ahlawy (UA-07) officially emerged as a fan club, raising its banner for the first time at a match in which al-Ahly played against ENPPI. According to Mohamed G. Bashir, who has authored the only Egyptian book about the group, the Ultras’ core sense of purpose lies in the unwavering support of their team, whether winning or losing. Ultras members come from various socioeconomic backgrounds and are not organized along political lines, but, by their very nature, exude a culture of anti-authoritarianism — against the media, police, club managers, the Football Federation and more. While bitter critiques of the commercialization of “modern football,” and disillusionment with official fan groups formally organized by the clubs, are key reasons for the Ultras' emergence, they may have also been looking for a homeland to which to proudly belong. Ultras Ahlawy’s slogans — “We are Egypt” and “The Greatest Club in the World” — illustrate that in each other and in their devotion to their club, they have found that missing sense of nationhood.

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