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Egyptian Protesters Detained at Soccer Match in Qatar

Egypt's fractious politics reached the tiny Gulf state of Qatar on Friday night, as a group of protesters was removed from Gharafa Stadium in the capital Doha during the Egyptian national soccer team's match against the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About midway through the first half, some 15 to 20 young men, identified by multiple Egyptian fans in attendance as members of Ultras Ahlway, the Ultras group of Cairo club Al-Ahly, separated from a large crowd in the stadium's east stand and made their way behind the Congolese goal. From there, they began to chant against the Egyptian military and police, at one point invoking the familiar revolutionary cry, "Down, down with military rule!" They also raised banners reading "NOSCAF," a reference to Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and another "ACAB," Ultra parlance for "All Cops Are Bastards."

Their chants were largely drowned out by jeers from other segments of the crowd. They were escorted within minutes outside the stadium by police. One of the banners lay face down on the ground nearby. Police refused to allow photography in the area.

It was unclear where the protesters were taken next. Qatar's Ministry of Interior, reach via telephone, had no comment on the matter.

Among the large contingent of Egyptian fans in attendance, overwhelmingly expatriates working and living in Qatar, reactions were mixed.

"People come [to Qatar] to work," said Mohamed Abdelkader, 26. "There's no need to make problems."

Amr Gamea, 27, cited the deep divisions among Egyptians -- both in Egypt and abroad -- in explaining the protest and ensuing backlash.

"There are two halves in Egypt -- half with the SCAF, half against the SCAF," he said, adding. "The picture of the Ultras is so bad in the media that it turns people against them."

He said that the protesters were likely motivated by anger over the Port Said disaster of last month, which many argue was the handiwork of Egypt's military government and police. At least seventy-four football fans, the vast majority Al-Ahly supporters, were killed after a pitch invasion by fans of the opposing team.

Mohamed Rostom, a 29-year-old architect originally from Alexandria, expressed sympathy for the protesters. "If they were allowed to chant, I would have joined them," he said. "The Ultras are the real heart of the revolution."

As for what fate they would meet, he could only speculate. "Perhaps they will be arrested, perhaps deported. I don't know."

The Egyptian national team was in Qatar this week for three friendly matches against African competition after its matches scheduled in Egypt were cancelled in the wake of the Port Said incident. Following victories over Kenya and Niger on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, Friday's contest ended a nil-nil draw.

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