Zamalek-Al Ahly football match to kick off early after call for Egypt protests
Cairo giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will face each other in the Egyptian Super Cup, the football season's opening match, at 7pm local time on Friday, with the kickoff time being brought forward by one hour, Zamalek president Mortada Mansour announced in a statement.
The match was originally scheduled to start at 8pm. The new kickoff means the match will start at the same time that exiled whistleblower Mohamed Ali has called for Egyptians to take to the streets to protest against Sisi. Ali has also called for people to protest after the match finishes.
Up to 10,000 fans are expecting to attend the match which is being played at the Borg el-Arab stadium in the coastal city of Alexandria.
In response to Ali's call for protests, the Ministry of Interior has declared a high state of alert, cancelling time off for all officers and personnel, a source in the ministry told MEE.
The source said that riot police would be deployed in working-class areas, popular squares, and government buildings on Friday.
In a series of daily online videos posted since 2 September, Ali has galvanised an online movement calling for the departure of Sisi and freedom for thousands of political prisoners.
Egypt's war of hashtags: Mohamed Ali's social media campaigns+ Show - Hide
Following Mohamed Ali’s videos, a number of hashtags have gone viral, calling on the Egyptian president to step down.
In a video posted on 15 September, Ali called on Egyptians to use the hashtag #كفايه_بقى_ياسيسى (That’s enough Sisi) which was trending at number one in Egypt and at number six worldwide.
Since then, the hashtags #ارحل (step down) الشعب_يريد_إسقاط_النظام
The videos and trending hashtags have sparked a counter hashtag, #احنا معك يا سيسي (We are with you Sisi) from government supporters. The hashtags have been a key part of sparking debate about the current conditions in Egypt, with people using them to discuss living conditions and socio-economic problems.
Ali says he is currently living with his five children in self-imposed exile in Barcelona, Spain, fearing for his family’s safety after deciding to speak publicly about the projects assigned to his company by the army.
Over 15 years, Ali owned a construction company called Amlaak, that collaborated with the Egyptian army’s Engineering Authority to implement mega projects across the country.
Many of those projects included building residential homes and palaces for senior military officials, including president Sisi who previously served as head of the military intelligence apparatus and then minister of defence.
When approached by Middle East Eye to verify Ali’s claims that his company was involved in building a number of palaces for Sisi, the Egyptian government did not reply to the allegations.
But Sisi did not refute any of Ali’s claims with counter-facts, and seemed to confirm Ali’s claims in his latest public remarks on the allegations, admitting his government has been building new palaces for the sake of Egypt, not for himself.
“Yes, I have built presidential palaces, and will continue to do so,” he told a conference room packed with supporters.
“I am creating a new state; nothing is registered with my name, it is built for Egypt.”
Sisi’s assertion of his expenditure on palaces has triggered renewed calls for his departure over accusations of squandering public funds at a time of austerity and economic hardship for most Egyptians.
Egyptians who shared Ali's videos have contrasted Sisi's spending with his own statements urging citizens to tighten their belts for the sake of the country.
Egypt's pro-government media has launched a campaign to discredit Ali following Sisi's response, with commentators accusing him of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an agent, or drug-addict.
Zamalek's Mansour took part in that campaign, calling Ali an "atheist", a "homosexual" and a "drug-addict".
In a YouTube message to football fans on Thursday, Mansour called for them to support the Egyptian army: "Our army is a red line."
Ali has condemned the campaign against him, saying the government is seeking to distract the public from the substance of his videos.
On the run
In his latest video on Friday, Ali urged Egyptians to take to the streets after the match, in a show of numbers.
"Being together will make you feel stronger," he said in a video posted on Friday afternoon.
If the defence minister does not remove Sisi, he said the people should go back to their jobs the following day.
"It's only a first step," he said. "We must be hopeful."
He added that he has a plan for different scenarios, if the first step did not work.
"We are all corrupt. Let's open a new page. He is the leader of the system. Sisi will be the only one to be held accountable. We don't want revenge, or injustice towards anyone."
Ali said he has been on the run since his videos went viral, and that he is contstantly traveling between cities to avoid being captured by Egyptian government agents. He also said he is hiding his children at an unknown location to protect them.