Police react as chaos erupts at a soccer stadium in Port Said city, Egypt. Seventy-three people were killed and at least 1000 injured after a soccer pitch invasion in the Egyptian city of Port Said, a health ministry official said, in an incident that one player described as "a war, not football". Photo: Reuters

Egypt began three days of mourning on Thursday after 74 people were killed in an eruption of violence at a football match that sparked new anger against the military rulers for failing to ensure security.

The rioting in the northern city of Port Said on Wednesday night marked one of the deadliest incidents in football history and sent shares on the Cairo stock exchange plunging in Thursday trade.

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri told an emergency session of parliament on the tragedy that the Egyptian football association's director and management board had been sacked, as had the Port Said security chief.

Ganzuri added that the governor of Port Said had resigned his post and his resignation accepted.

Clashes erupted as soon as the referee blew the final whistle in a match which saw home team Al-Masri beat Cairo's Al-Ahly 3-1.

Al-Masri fans flooded the pitch, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly supporters, causing chaos and panic as players and fans ran in all directions trying to flee, witnesses said.

Photos of bleeding players circulated on the Internet.

Gunfire was also reported on the main road leading to Port Said from Cairo, and troops were deployed to prevent further clashes.

State television ran footage of riot police standing rigidly in rows as pandemonium erupted around them.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim has said most of the deaths were caused by the crush but medics said some people were stabbed.

The health ministry said 74 people were killed, including a policeman. Hundreds were also reported wounded. Police said 47 people had been arrested.

The ruling military announced three days of national mourning.

Stocks in Cairo tumbled by 4.6 percent, with the EGX-30 index of leading shares falling from 4.688 points at opening to 4.471 points.

The clashes – blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood on supporters of fallen president Hosni Mubarak – came as Egypt struggles with a wave of incidents linked to poor security.

Politicians, fans and players took to social media to express their fury over the clashes, which cap a year of political upheaval and unrest after the uprising that unseated Mubarak.

“There are dead people lying on the ground! There are dead people in the changing room,” Al-Ahly striker Emad Meteab told the team's satellite channel.

“I won't play football anymore until these people get justice,” a furious Meteab said.

Egypt's hated police force, which recently came under fire for its heavy-handed tactics, had been given instructions to deal carefully with protesters, sources said.

State television said Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who took power when the Mubarak was ousted on February 11 last year, sent two military planes to fly out the players and the injured from Port Said late Wednesday.

He stressed that the country's security was “fine” as he waited at a Cairo airport to meet the players and wounded fans.

In Geneva FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was shocked by the incident. “This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen,” he said.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that a minute of silence will be observed at the Africa Cup of Nations this weekend in memory of those killed and injured in the disaster.

“African football is in a state of mourning,” said CAF president Issa Hayatou.

Politicians in Cairo expressed fury at the deaths, with newly elected liberal MP Amr Hamzawy calling for the sacking of the interior minister as well as Port Said's governor.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest political force, accused Mubarak supporters of instigating the football violence.

“The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime,” said MP Essam al-Erian in a statement on the Islamist group's Freedom and Justice Party website.

“This tragedy is the result of negligence and the lack of army and police, and those running the country bear the responsibility,” Erian added. “There are those who deliberately want to sow chaos in the country and place obstacles in front of the peaceful transfer of power.”

Since Mubarak's ouster, Egypt has seen sporadic and sometimes deadly unrest coupled with a sharp rise in crime linked to the scarcity of the unpopular police, who were heavily criticised for their crackdown on protesters during the uprising. AFP