Bitter Egyptian rivals Al-Ahly and Al-Masry drew 1-1 on Saturday in their first clash since a 2012 game that ended in deadly stadium riots leaving 72 people killed.
The match was played behind closed doors and at a neutral venue in the Red Sea city of Gouna, far away from Port Said where the riots erupted after the match on February 1, 2012.
Seventy-two of Cairo-based Al-Ahly’s hard core supporters, known as the Ultras, were killed in the post-match violence in Port Said, home city of the Al-Masry team.
Before the match began, Al-Ahly players wore black t-shirts to commemorate the deaths of their fans, and avoided exchanging greetings with the Al-Masry team, an AFP photogrpaher reported.
Ahead of the match Al-Ahly players also unfurled a black banner that said: “Our martyrs are a badge on our chests”.
Families of those killed in 2012 had called for Al-Ahly to boycott the match but the club’s management decided to go ahead with it.
Saturday’s match was played as a court held a hearing in the retrial of 73 defendants, including nine policemen, accused of killing the Al-Ahly supporters.
It later scheduled the next hearing on Sunday.
The riots, considered the deadliest in Egypt’s sports history, were largely blamed on supporters of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in early 2011 after a popular uprising.
Since 2012, Egypt’s premier league championship has been split into two groups to ensure the two teams never played against each other, except potentially in a final, although that didn’t happen.
However, for the 2015 season the league has reverted to a single group, which brought the two teams face to face on Saturday.
Since the riots, football fans have been largely banned from attending league matches, but limited numbers of spectators were allowed during international games whether played by clubs or the national team.