By Ray Fleming

MOST reports from the current African Cup of Nations have compared it favourably with the World Cup in South Africa; as the quarter finals begin it had been hoped that international interest would grow in what is being called the best of these tournaments yet held.

Unfortunately a different side of African football has intervened in Egypt in the violent riots at Port Said on Wednesday night when the game between the home side El Masry and Cairo's Al Ahly ended in uncontrolled lawlessness as the large crowd invaded the pitch and what can only be called mayhem ensued.

When it wore itself out at least 73 people were dead and hundreds injured.
Clearly this was not a conventional football riot writ large, despite the known hostility between the supporters of the two teams. All the evidence shown live on TV and the first-hand reporting by journalists indicate that other forces were at work, using the football game both as an ignition and a cover for political rioting of the most extreme kind.

There are several theories about the identity of the instigators but only one about their target -- a double-edged message to the ruling military council and its weak civilian government that unless there is proper security in the country while its democratic transition is taking place a reversion to the past is not impossible.