Best known for his brutal repression of critics, Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al Sisi has invited protesting militant anti-government soccer fans to investigate a 2012 politically loaded soccer brawl in which 72 supporters of storied Cairo club Al Ahli SC died.
Sisi's state is franticly trying to suppress a movement it claims to have already suppressed. As Egypt's central security chief declared they "will not allow another revolution," the hashtag "the people demand the downfall of the regime" quietly became the top trending topic in the Arab Twittersphere.
Clinging listlessly to the top of the pole in the middle of Tahrir Square the Egyptian flag projects absolute power, a signal of the old order restored after the mass anti-government uprising of 2011.
Egyptian law enforcement authorities and the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), in a reflection of fears that stadia in Egypt could once more emerge as platforms for anti-government protest, have extended a ban on spectators attending matches that has been in place for much of the last five years.
Caught between military rule and increasing violence from Islamist groups, there is less space for peaceful dissent. Perceiving threat everywhere, the government is becoming a new sacred cow, inscrutable and unquestionable even to the most established and unimpeachable critical voices.
As Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi struggled this week to get Egyptians to cast their vote in parliamentary elections, militant soccer fans put widespread youth disillusionment with the president's autocratic rule on public display.
A staunch supporter of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has called on the government to allow soccer fans, a pillar of anti-government protest, back into stadia that have largely been closed to the public for nearly five years.
Carsi, one of Turkey's largest, if not its largest, fan group has long campaigned for social justice related issues, and played in 2013 a key role in the biggest anti-government protests since Mr. Erdogan's rise to power in 2003.
The Egyptian interior ministry, in a potential signal that the country's military-backed regime recognizes that its choking off of all public space could backfire, has agreed to allow fans to attend international matches played by the national team and Egyptian clubs.
A series of recent mass protests in several Arab countries have called into question suggestions that civil wars, brutal crackdowns and military coups and interventions have quelled popular willingness to stand up for rights in the Middle East.
A shadowy group of militant soccer fans that has largely lied low since it participated in mass anti-government protests in 2013 that led to the military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has claimed responsibility for a car bomb near a Cairo security building that injured at least six policemen.
This month's premier league final between Cairo's two storied clubs, Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC, once the world's most violent derby, was more than a clash between two soccer giants.
I believe in a future in which Muslim spiritual leaders and Islamist activists no longer view their faith or their fellow Muslims in these terms -- and where those Westerners who believe in fairness, equality and justice for all open their hearts to all the peoples of the region, not just a privileged few.
Criticism this week by soccer player Ahmed al-Merghani of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's hard-handed repression of dissent and failure to defeat a mushrooming insurgency in the Sinai peninsula signals mounting discontent in Egypt.
The Economist recently highlighted the contrast between post-revolt Asian societies and Middle Eastern and North African societies in the woes of a pro-longed, messy and bloody transition that is pockmarked by revolt and counter-revolt, sectarianism, the redrawing of post-colonial borders, and the rise of retrograde groups as revolutionary forces.
Ultras have for the past eight years been at the core of anti-government protest in Egypt. They have been the drivers of student protests in the last two years against the regime of Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the general-turned-president who in 2013 toppled Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first and only democratically elected president.