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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Libya to Play African Championship Match Against Comores Despite Regime’s Crackdown

Libya’s national soccer teams intends to play this month’s African championship match against the Comoros despite mass anti-government protests that are tearing the country apart and have sparked a brutal crackdown by embattled Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi.

Libyan team coach Marcos Paqueta sent on Friday the list of players he intends to deploy for the match to the Libyan Football Federation headed by Gadaffi’s controversial, soccer playing son Saad al Gadaffi, who plays a key role in the internationally condemned crackdown.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is likely to either postpone or shift the match scheduled to be played on March 25 in the Libyan capital Tripoli to a neutral venue.

CAF has been slow in moving international tournaments and matches away from Libya despite the killing of hundreds demanding an end to Gadaffi’s 41-year authoritarian, mercurial rule by elements of the Libyan military and pro-Gadaffi forces.

Paqueta, a Brazilian national who fled Libya last week, sent his list from Rio de Janeiro.

Paqueta said Libyan football officials would decide on Sunday where the squad should train for the match. Paqueta suggested Portugal.

'It would be a good place, since we have one national team player who plays there and there is a good training structure,' Paqueta said.

The Libyan squad’s willingness to play the match despite the government’s brutal efforts to suppress the protests is likely to be seen as further evidence that the national team supports Gadaffi.

Libyan national indoors soccer team coach Pablo Priesto suggested earlier this week that his players supported Gadaffi. “Our entourage was loyal to the leader, I suppose. The players never really came out on what was happening. (The coaching staff) didn't talk politics. The players neither, I guess,” Priesto said.

The team’s attitude reflects a complex relationship with the dictator that is evident across the Arab world. It is an attitude that cannot be reduced to vested economic interest or privilege but constitutes an expression of the dictator’s success of getting those he rules to internalize his positioning as the nation’s father.

As a result, players often support protesters demands for an end to corruption, greater transparency and more freedom, but object to the perceived indignity to which they see their leader or father as being subjected to. It is an attitude that resembles that of a child who defends his father irrespective of whether his father is right or wrong.

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