Writing by Patrick Keddie
LATE AT NIGHT, waiting as instructed by the Opera House on the island of Zamalek, my phone rings. “You know the lions by the bridge? Meet us there.”
I go to the statues standing sentry at the bridge over the Nile, then another call comes in. “You are by the lions? Good. Come onto the bridge, we’ll pick you up.”
I wander onto Qasr al-Nil. It is thronged with young couples enjoying the cool Cairo night. A final phone call: “Okay. We see you, wait there.”
A car pulls up with three young men in it. I get in and we speed away from the center of the city. They don’t hang around because they fear the police are after them. They move houses and change their phone numbers every couple of days, and they don’t dare visit their families. “It’s a sacrifice,” says one, “but not like the sacrifice those in jail are making.”
The young men are leading members of the Ultras White Knights (UWK) — a group of hard-core football fans of Zamalek SC, one of Egypt’s most successful football clubs. After we find a safe place to talk, they occasionally glance at the tape recorder as if it might explode. Ultras rarely speak to the media, but this is an exceptional time.
Dozens of members have been arrested as the group has become locked in an escalating feud — characterized by bitter accusations, protests, pranks, and an alleged assassination attempt — with lawyer, politician, and Zamalek Sporting Club President Mortada Mansour, one of Egypt’s most influential and infamous men.
Mansour has brought a series of private lawsuits against the UWK, and a court will soon decide whether the group should be banned and designated as terrorists.
[Read the rest of the article published by the LA Review of Books here]