Fleeting hopes that Egypt's militant, street battled-hardened soccer fans may have breached general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's repressive armour were dashed with this week's sentencing of 15 supporters on charges of attempting to assassinate the controversial head of storied Cairo club Al Zamalek SC.
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.
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.
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.
Egypt has moved closer to banning as terrorist organizations militant soccer groups that form the backbone of opposition to autocratic rule with the arrest and pre-trial detention of five alleged members of the Ultras White Knights (UWK), the highly-politicized, street battle-hardened support group of storied Cairo club Al Zamalek SC.
A stampede at a Cairo stadium earlier this month, much like a politically-loaded soccer brawl in the Suez Canal city of Port Said three years ago, is shining a spotlight on Egypt's unreformed, unabashedly violent, and politically powerful police and security forces amid confusion over what precisely happened and how many fans died.
Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's efforts to lend legitimacy to parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring have gotten off to a murky start with the appointment of a controversial, reportedly United Arab Emirates-backed human rights NGO as one of five foreign election monitors.