Banned Bahraini player Sayed Mohammed Adnan (left; Source: Sulekha.com)
By James M. Dorsey
Bahrain defender Sayed Mohammed Adnan, banned from playing in his country’s national team because he participated in anti-government protests, has joined Australian A-League champion Brisbane Roar.
Mr. Adnan, the 2009 runner-up for Asian Player of the Year who played 79 matches for Bahrain in which he scored 13 goals, signed with the Australian club for a year. Mr. Adnan also scored at club level an impressive 37 times in 104 matches for Qatari club Al-Khor.
Referring to Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on mass anti-government protests earlier this year and the subsequent arrest or sacking of some 150 Shiite Muslim athletes, referees and sports officials, including himself and two other national soccer team players, Mr. Adnan told the Associated Press that “everybody here (Australia) respects each other and they want to be champions. I like that."
Mr. Adnan, cowed like many of the disciplined athletes and officials, was careful not to openly discuss the situation in his home country where unrest is brewing just under the surface despite the government’s successful squashing of the mass protests. “It is different weather between Australia and the Gulf. “The weather is perfect for me here, it is cooler and I can work hard on my fitness, Mr. Adnan said.
Mr. Adnan together with Shiite brothers A’ala and Mohammed Hubail, was barred last week from joining the national team for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Mr. Adnan and the Hubail brothers were among those detained in the wake of the crackdown and allegedly mistreated in prison after first being denounced on state-run television. Muhammed Hubail was sentenced in June to two years in jail, but released on bail after world soccer body FIFA questioned the Bahrain Football Association about the arrests.
The exclusion of the three players from the national team and Mr. Adnan’s departure for Brisbane again focuses attention on FIFA’s apparent acceptance accepted at face value the BFA's statement that no sports players or officials were disciplined or harassed because of their association with the people power uprising - a statement that flies in the face of reporting in Bahrain's state-controlled media and reports by people involved in Bahraini soccer. The BFA made the statement in response to a FIFA query.
Ironically, Mr. Adnan is remembered in Australia and New Zealand for a famous penalty miss that secured New Zealand a place in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
Mr. Adnan joined Brisbane after he decided to quit soccer disillusioned with the BFA and FIFA’s attitude. He moved with his family to Australia shortly after his release from prison in late June.
"I have to say thank you to Brisbane Roar because it was them who made me come back to football," Mr. Adnan said. "When I came to Australia I forgot everything about football. I didn't want to play football anymore."
The Bahrain Labour Ministry said earlier this week that a total of 2,464 people had been dismissed from their jobs since the anti-government protests erupted. The state-controlled Bahrain Press Agency said one-fifth of those would be reinstated on the orders of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has demanded that all those sacked be returned to their jobs.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.