Riots that broke out after a football match in northern Egypt left at least 74 people dead, the Health Ministry said.

About 1,000 people were injured Wednesday when fans of the home side, al—Masri, stormed the field seconds after their side won the match 3—1 in Port Said and attacked players from the visiting Cairo—based al—Ahli team.

Those caught up in the violence accused police of standing by while the mayhem erupted around them.

Those killed were trampled or smothered, and some of them were security officers, officials said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter called it “a black day for football” while an al—Ahli doctor told the Al—Masry Al—Youm newspaper, “This is war, not football.” The win for al—Masri was a rare one against al—Ahali, a top football team in the country that had long gone undefeated.

Egypt’s state television said fans of al—Masri surrounded the players of the rival team and their supporters on the field and started pelting them with stones and bottles.

Al—Ahli players told local media that security personnel did nothing to protect them.

Their Portuguese trainer, Manuel Jose, said he was considering leaving the country after surviving the melee.

He told the Portuguese television channel SIC that he saw dozens of bodies and team doctors tended numerous severely injured fans, some of whom died in the changing room.

“The blame lies solely with the police,” Jose said in a telephone interview. “There were dozens in the stadium, but they all disappeared suddenly or did nothing.” Authorities should have seen the violence coming after fans from the home team stormed the field before the beginning of the game, delaying the kick—off for a half—hour, and also ran onto the pitch at half—time and after every goal, Jose said.

Blatter described himself as “shocked and saddened” at the violence and casualties. “This is a black day for football,” he said in a statement. “Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen.” The Egyptian Football Association suspended all games while the ruling military council said it was sending two military aircraft to Port Said to fly out the al—Ahli team, state television said.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been in charge since former president Hosny Mubarak was forced out of power by a popular uprising in February.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest political movement, which received the largest number of seats in the newly elected legislature, accused Mubarak supporters of starting the Port Said violence.

Jose’s assistant Oscar Elizondo also spoke of a political motivation for the violence. “There is a lot of hate,” he said while describing the behaviour of the police as shameful.

“There were 3,000 police officers, and no one was arrested,” he said.

Players and coaches were taken from the stadium in “military vehicles that looked like tanks,” Elizondo said.

Jose, 65, said he was attacked himself, suffering kicks and punches. “I and all our players and coaches are fine,” he told the SIC from a police station but added, “You just can’t play under these conditions.” A fire was reported in a Cairo stadium after a game there was called off.

Keywords: Egypt riots

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