The footballing son of an Iraqi soccer coach and a prominent sports journalist are among up to 200 sportspeople detained in Bahrain’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, according to press reports.
Iraqi coach Abdelamir Naji told French news agency Agence France Press that his 16-year old son, Zulfiqar, who trains with Bahraini al-Mouharrak football club's junior team was arrested at his home early Friday.
Naji, who was recently elected as a member of the board of Iraqi club Al Zawra said his son was not involved in politics and only interested in music and football.
"I have asked the club to intervene but they have not done much. I do not understand what is happening because I thought I had a good relationship with Bahrain,” Naji said
Naji played with Iraq's Al-Zawra club from 1978 to 1990 before coaching various Bahraini teams, including Al-Mouharrak, Al-Itifaq, Al-Ittihad and Al-Badiyah.
Iraqi relations have deteriorated sharply with six oil-rich monarchies of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council have deteriorated in the wake of the Sunni Muslim-led Bahraini government’s brutal crackdown on the predominantly Shiite Muslim protesters. Bahrain's two airlines have stopped flights to majority Shiite as well as to Iran and Lebanon, which has a large Shiite minority.
Bahraini sports clubs earlier dismissed at least 12 sports people and executives, including two of the country’s top soccer players, because they participated in anti-government demonstrations. The dismissals are widely believed to have occurred at the behest of the government.
Iran’s Ahlul Bayt News Agency reported Faisal Hayat, a sports journalist for the Bahrain’s Albilad newspaper know for his soccer coverage was among the more recent arrests in Bahrain. It said a picture of Hayat was broadcast on a Bahrain television program that attacked participants in the protests.
The agency quoted a statement by Bahrain Olympic Committee chairman Nasser Al-Khalifa as saying: “...Bahrain is an island with no escape passage, everybody who interfered in these issues will be punished and everybody who took a stand (supporting the regime) will be awarded. The people who stood with or against the king are well-known to us.”