Even as Egypt struggled against South Africa in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, the home fans took time to honour a recent tradition.
In the 20th and 72nd minutes of a match that the Egyptians were to lose 1-0, hundreds of supporters switched on their mobile phone flashlights — a simple tribute to victims killed in deadly stadium clashes after the 2011 revolution.
“This is our tradition that we pull out our mobiles,” said 19-year-old Mostafa Atef.
“The blood of martyrs has nothing to do whether we support (rival clubs) Al Ahly or Zamalek.”
The timing of the flashlight tributes reflect the numbers of fans killed in two separate incidents.
There is still uncertainty at the number of fans who died in February 2012 when security forces stormed the field at the Port Said stadium of Al Masry during a match with Cairo-based Al Ahly.
Some reports claim 74 fans died that day, others say 72. Whichever, it was one of the world’s deadliest football clashes.
Three years later, almost to the day in 2015, 20 Zamalek fans — some reports say 22 — died after a mass stampede at the gates of the Cairo stadium’s gates prompted by police use of teargas and live bullets.
That led to the reinstatement of a total ban on attending domestic games which is still in effect.
For sales representative Islam Abdel Sadek, 30, the tragedies are a reminder that security in football stadiums will still be necessary after the tournament.
“Egypt is strong and safe now,” said Sadek. “But it’s a poignant memory and we are praying for the martyrs. So of course we will always turn our lights on”.