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Showing posts from February, 2011

Italy may score an own goal with its reliance on Libyan money

By James M. Dorsey

The National, Feb 27, 2011

Italy's most popular football club, Juventus, is facing a dilemma as it prepares to discuss tomorrow the brutal clampdown by the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, its second-largest shareholder.

It is a quandary that is also affecting a host of high-profile Italian companies, including UniCredit, Italy's largest bank, and the car maker Fiat in which Col Qaddafi's investment vehicles hold stakes.

For Juventus, however, the dilemma is particularly acute. The club's failure to win a trophy since it was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 Italian titles as the result of a corruption scandal makes it especially vulnerable to criticism from its fans. Amid mounting revulsion, Juventus is finding it increasingly difficult to explain its cosy relationship with the Libyan leader and his sons.

Juventus is likely to be forced to confront the issue publicly after tomorrow's board meeting that will discuss the Libyan crisis alongside the club&…

Postings

Postings to this blog may be fewer for the next two days but reporting will return to normal by Tuesday, March 1.

Thank you for your continued interest in this blog and for your understanding

Anti-Government Protests Force Second Postponement of Yemen’s Olympic Qualifier

FIFA, soccer’s ruling world body, has postponed for the second time Yemen’s home Olympic Games qualifier against Singapore because of anti-government protests wracking the country.

In a statement FIFA said that the initial and the return match between Yemen and Singapore would have to be played in a third, neutral country to ensure that they take place 'in a totally safe and secure environment'.

The soccer body said a third country and new dates for the matches would be decided by the Asian Football Confederation.

Yemen has been witnessing for the past month mass protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 30 years in office. Supporters and proponents of the Yemeni leader have repeatedly clashed in the capital Sana’a in the last two weeks of uninterrupted demonstrations.

The protests are part of a wave of anti-government demonstrations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that have already toppled two leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak…

Egyptian Protests Force First Soccer Resignations

Egyptian mass protests that earlier this month overthrew President Hosni Mubarak have forced the country’s first soccer resignations.

Angry fans demonstrated outside the headquarters of Ittihad Al Skandarya, the port city of Alexandria’s main team, demanding that board reshuffle because of the club’s poor performance.

The protests prompted club president Mohamed Moselhi and three other board members to resign.

"Moselhi, vice president Ali Seif, Ashraf Sedki and Zeinab Mahmoud have already quit," Ittihad general manger Gasser Mounir told Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com.

Ittihad is languishing at the bottom of the Egyptian Premier League, which has been suspended since late January because of the mass protests that virtually paralyzed Egypt for much of February.

The resignations are likely to be followed by further changes in the top management of Egyptian soccer. Egyptian national coach Hassan Shehata and Ibrahim and Hossam Hassan, members of the board of storied Cairo cl…

Brazilian Club Opens Soccer School in Iran

Brazilian soccer club Football Club Internacional, following similar Middle Eastern initiatives by Real Madrid, Inter-Milan and Arsenal, has agreed to establish Iran’s first foreign football school.

The Limeira-based club sees the school in the capital Tehran as the first of several in Iran, the Fars news agency quoted the Iranian chairman of the Iran-Brazil Friendship Society, Mir Qassem Momeni, as saying.

Momeni said the school would cater to youngsters between 9 and 15 years old, who would be sent to Brazil in summer months for more advanced training.

The rash of school openings in the Middle East constitutes an effort by soccer clubs to forge closer ties with oil-rich Gulf states, some of which such as Iran and Bahrain are feeling the heat of a wave of anti-government protests sweeping the region.

Real Madrid earlier this month inaugurated Saudi Arabia’s first soccer academy. FC Inter Milan and FC Arsenal last month announced school openings in the region.

The clubs are seeking to …

African Soccer Leaders and Blatter Delay Depriving Libya of U-20 Soccer Tournament

Depriving Libya of the right to host next month’s Under-20 African soccer championship amid widespread international condemnation of Col. Moammar Gadaffi’s brutal crackdown on protesters seeking to oust him after 41 years in office would seem a no-brainer.

That however is not the case in the minds of the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA president Sepp Blatter despite growing concern among African teams about security in Libya and revulsion at the violence employed by Gadaffi.

“We cannot risk the lives of our players by taking them to a battle field,” said Lesotho Football Association spokesman Baba Malephane in the latest African expression of concern.

South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria have indicated that they would be willing to replace Libya as hosts of the 20-nation tournament which is scheduled to open in Libya on March 18 with matches in Tripoli at the Great Man-Made River stadium where fighting is intense and the Hugo Chavez Stadium in B…

Islamist Seek to Regain Spotlight with Attacks on Soccer and the Olympics

Islamist militants on the edge of the Middle East and North Africa, where soccer fans have played key roles in sweeping authoritarian leaders from power, are targeting soccer and the Olympics as un-Islamic in a bid to return the jihadist movement to center stage.

Protests in the Middle East and North Africa have so far toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali and shaken the regime of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadaffi to its core, prompting it to brutally crackdown on protesters. The demonstrations of people power have largely side lined radical Islamist forces seeking to establish an Islamic government with a campaign of terror.

In a bid to put themselves back in the spotlight, Somali Islamists associated with Al Qaeda earlier this week killed a star international on war-torn Somalia’s U-20 soccer team and wounded two other players in a suicide bombing in which 11 people died and 40 others were injured.

Islamic militants in southern Russia, which…

Online Soccer Network Plays Key Role in Eastern Libya

An online soccer network in eastern Libya played a key role in informing the outside world of developments in the eastern city of Benghazi and shuttling foreign journalists from the Egyptian border into areas controlled by forces opposed to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi.

Tawfik al-Shohiby, a rebel in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city which fell to the protesters after bitter fighting, used his soccer network to initially distribute flash drives and CDs with videos of the fighting in Benghazi and elsewhere in the country to friends in other towns and to journalists. It was their way of circumventing the Gadaffi regime’s efforts to prevent news of the regime’s brutal crackdown to reach the outside world by clamping down on Internet access and telephone communications.

Once anti-Gadaffi forces gained control of towns in eastern Libya, the soccer network began shuttling the first journalists to those areas. The Gadaffi regime has refused to let journalists into the country.

"…

US Embassy Cancels Funding for Egyptian Police Soccer Program

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has cancelled plans to fund an Egyptian Interior Ministry youth soccer mentorship program because of the ministry’s brutal use of police and security forces to crackdown on protesters that earlier this month forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in office.

In a letter to Congress obtained by The Cable, a Foreign Policy magazine blog, State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affarirs Richard Verma said that "based on the events of the past week, questions have arisen about the appropriateness and feasibility of proceeding at this time with the proposed youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt.

Verma noted that “there are questions about the role of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian Police in recent events. Before proceeding with a youth engagement activity involving the two organizations, additional time for the situation to settle is needed."

Interior ministry forces are believed to be responsible for …

Soccer Politics: Egyptian Police-Owned Team Distances Itself from Hated Police Force

Egyptian top tier, police-owned soccer club Ittihad El-Shorta is seeking to distance itself from Egypt’s hated police force, identified by many as a pillar of the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

In the latest reverberations in Egyptian soccer of the mass protests that paralyzed Egypt earlier this month and forced an end to Mubarak’s 30 years in office, Ittihad El-Shorta manager Talaat Youssef noted that several of his players had joined the protests.

The Egyptian police and security forces are widely blamed for the deaths of 365 people in the protests and for two days of violent attacks on the protesters by pro-Mubarak forces.

“The team is independent from the Ministry of Interior, we’re a separate sports entity that has nothing to do with politics. So please there is no need to be hostile against our club,” Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com quoted Youssef as saying.

Youssef’s remarks follow several statements this week by
Ibrahim Hassan, a controversial board member of C…

Soccer Salaries: Egyptian Players Threaten to Walk Off the Job

A growing number of Egyptian soccer players are publicly opposing an Egyptian Football Association (EFA) proposal to cap transfer pricing and salaries.

In the latest rejection, four players - Islam Awad, Walid Soliman, Adel Mostafa and Nader Al-Ashri - for ENPPI that is owned by the country’s oil ministry threatened to leave if their club attempted to limit their salaries.

“The board is considering lowering our wages, which we fully reject. We have deals. We have a lot of tempting offers from other clubs and if the board wants to minimize the budget, they can sell us before we leave for free,” Egypt international Awad said on behalf of his teammates.

Awad’s statement followed similar declarations by Ibrahim Hassan, a controversial board member of Al Zamalek SC, one of the most storied and crowned clubs in the Egyptian Premier League, and Amr Zaki, a striker for the club.

Hassan and his brother Hossam, who is also an Al Zamalek board member, face mounting demands by fans that he resign…

Cameron Visit to Qatar Highlights Differences in Perceptions of Soccer

This week’s visit to Qatar by British Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted differences in how the West and the Middle East view soccer in political and social terms.

News reports about a press conference held jointly by Cameron and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al Thani focused on Cameron’s insistence that gay soccer fans should not be discriminated against during the 2022 World Cup which Qatar will host and Al Thani’s admission that he knows little about soccer. Qatar like most Muslim nations bans homosexuality.

"To me it is clear – football is for everybody. No one should be excluded on the basis of their race or religion or sex or sexuality. It is absolutely vital that is the case. I am sure that will be the case when the football World Cup comes here to Qatar,” Cameron said.

Yet that is where the West and the Middle East, and the Gulf in particular, part ways. Change means different things to both worlds.

To Cameron it involves an embrace of all segments…

Opposition Mounts to Potential Cap on Egyptian Soccer Salaries

Opposition to an Egyptian Football Association (EFA) proposal to cap transfer pricing and players’ salaries constitutes a shot across the bow of mounting pressure to radically reform Egyptian soccer.

Ibrahim Hassan, an outspoken board member of Al Zamalek SC, one of the most storied and crowned clubs in the Egyptian Premier League, and Amr Zaki, a striker for the club, have publicly rejected the proposal announced by the EFA on Sunday after a meeting with representatives of the country’s top clubs.

“I totally reject this option. Controlling wages and contracts has no place in the world of professional football,” Zaki told Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com.

Hassan echoed Zaki’s position, arguing that “since players vary in their standards, it is logic that wages are also variable. It is a supply-and-demand situation… Every player is worth what he deserves.”

The EFA effort to cap transfer pricing and salaries in a bid to stymie spiralling demands by players constitutes a first step t…

Gadaffi Prodigy Offers Study in Politics of Middle Eastern Soccer

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi’s controversial soccer-playing son, Saadi, offers a study in the use of soccer by authoritarian Arab regimes to distract attention from economic and political problems and of the embattled Libyan dictator’s divide and rule approach to governance.

Described by a 2009 US diplomatic cable disclosed by Wikileaks as “notoriously ill-behaved,” Saadi, a former board member of Italian soccer club Juventus FC, is a leader of his father’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters seeking an end to Gadaffi’s 41-year rule.

The protests are the latest in a wave of anti-government demonstrations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that has already toppled two leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali.

Saadi last week reportedly joined his brother Khamis, a Russian-trained elite special forces commander, and military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi in an effort to wrest control of Benghazi, Libya’s seco…

Islamist Suicide Bombing Kills Somali Star International

An Islamist suicide bombing that killed a star international on war-torn Somalia’s U-20 soccer team and wounded two other players constitutes a setback for the squad as well as efforts by the country’s football federation to lure child soldiers with the prospect of a soccer career away from the Islamist militia.

The attack is likely to figure prominently when FIFA President Sepp Blatter meets Somali Football Federation (SFF) president Said Mahmoud Nur on Thursday at a Confederation of African Football (CAF) gathering in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. FIFA supports the SFF campaign that has succeeded in turning hundreds of Somali youngsters recruited by the militia into soccer players.

The three players were targeted by the suicide bomber when they walked home earlier this week from training in a heavily fortified police academy in Hamar Jajab District, an area of several blocks in the bullet-scarred Somali capital of Mogadishu that are controlled by the US-backed Transitional Federal …

Egyptian Soccer Stadiums Emerge as Venue for Sexual Harassment

A Los Angeles Times report identifies soccer stadiums as a prime venue in Egypt for sexual harassment and by implication revives the question whether soccer fans who played an important role in the protests that earlier this month swept President Hosni Mubarak from power may have been responsible for a brutal sexual assault on an American journalist.

This month’s brutal sexual attack on CBS foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan while she was covering the celebrations on Cairo’s Tahrir Square immediately after Mubarak’s resignation focused attention on the problem of sexual harassment. Prominent Washington Post columnist David Ignatius raised the spectre that ‘soccer hooligans’ may have been responsible for the vicious attack on Logan.

Logan was attacked by a group of unidentified men who ripped her clothes off. Her body was covered with welts and bruises when soldiers finally came to her rescue. She was evacuated to the U.S. and hospitalized for several days.

Egyptians like others …

Saudi Arabia Celebrates Return of King Abdullah with New Sports Channel

Saudi Arabia is to receive a new sports channel to celebrate the return to the kingdom of King Abdullah from a two month-absence for medical treatment in much the same way that a father brings gifts for his children when returning from a business trip.

The announcement by Assistant Culture and Information Minister and supervisor general of Saudi Sports Channel Turki Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz goes to the heart of the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that has already toppled two leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, and has sparked a brutal crackdown by embattled Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi.

It also highlights the use of sports, and particularly soccer, by authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes whose rulers position themselves as father figures and address their subjects as sons and daughters. Soccer is par excellence the tool the Middle East’s authoritarian leaders use in their attempts to d…

Nigeria Compensates Iran for Cancelling Match To Protest Arms Shipment

Nigeria has agreed to pay the Iranian football association $250,000 in compensation for its cancellation of a friendly soccer match in Tehran in protest against an alleged Iranian attempt to smuggle weapons to Nigerian opposition groups.

“We have reached a mutual consensus of paying them $250,000. We don’t have any other option in the case,” said Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) spokesperson Ademola Olajire in defense of the controversial payment.

Nigeria officially cancelled the match that had been scheduled for November 17 of last year because some its top players were still recovering from injuries.

Privately, however, Nigerian officials said the match was cancelled in response to Nigerian authorities seizing 13 containers with Iranian weapons, including rockets, grenades and mortars labelled as building materials. The authorities believe the weapons confiscated in the port of Lagos were intended for militant Nigerian Muslim groups.

French shipping company CMA CGM SA said that an…
Qatar in firing line as Fifa's political football

By James M Dorsey

Published in The National, Feb 23, 2011

Barely three months after winning the right to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar's bid campaign is under increasing scrutiny. What was supposed to be the crowning of its efforts to position itself as a global soccer powerhouse is turning into a public relations nightmare.

The state is fending off assertions it employed its financial muscle to influence crucial votes on the executive committee of Fifa, football's world body. Despite that, there is little doubt its campaign fitted within Fifa's broad interpretation of its bidding rules and its accepted practices.

Qatar, nonetheless, is getting the short stick of the debate. Its deep pockets rather than the loopholes in Fifa's bidding rules are the focus of the debate that is coloured by the body's reputation having been tainted by a series of corruption scandals. Those deep pockets have so far not been em…

CAF to Decide Fate of African Matches Threatened by Political Turmoil

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is set to decide the fate of Egypt’s African qualifier against South Africa as well as of the U-20 African championship and home matches in Libya and Algeria in the wake of the political turmoil sweeping North Africa.

CAF together with FIFA president Sepp Blatter will meet on Thursday in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on the side lines of the second African Cup of Nations for Home-Based Players (CHAN 2011). CAF President Issa Hayatou and Blatter are scheduled to announce at a news conference on Friday what consequence the turmoil will have for African soccer.

Tunisia, which last month sparked the wave of protests wracking the Middle East and North Africa with the toppling of President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, on Tuesday beat Algeria, which also is witnessing mass anti-government protests, 5:3 to qualify for the CHAN 2011 final against Angola.

CAF will almost certainly seek an alternative venue for the U-20 championship, which is scheduled to …

CAF Under Pressure to Take U-20 African Championship Away from Libya

Pressure is mounting on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to identify an alternative host for next month’s U-20 African soccer championship scheduled to be held in protest-wracked Libya.

Analysts warn that even if the protests aiming at overthrowing Libyan leader Col. Moammer’s Gadaffi’s 41-year old were to end quickly, Libya would hardly be ready for the scheduled March 18 opening of the tournament.

Nor would Libya be acceptable as a venue after the country’s army and air force brutally intervened in a so far failed bid to crush the popular revolt by randomly killing hundreds of protesters with snipers, heavy machine guns and air strikes.

Reports of splits within the country’s armed forces, units for and against Gadaffi fighting each other and weapons captured having been distributed among the population hardly make Libya an acceptable security risk.

Nigeria’s U-20 squad narrowly escaped the Libyan violence earlier this month when it played Libya in Benghazi on the eve of …

Professional Footballer Leads Pro-Gadaffi Charge in Benghazi

A professional footballer and son of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi is believed to be leading the Gadaffi family’s brutal efforts to restore control of Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.

Two Libyan fighter pilots defected Monday with their planes to Malta after refusing orders to open fire on protesters in the city demanding an end to Gadaffi’s 41-year rule.

Gadaffi last week put one of his seven sons, Saadi al Gadaffi, described by a 2009 US diplomatic cable disclosed by Wikileaks as “notoriously ill-behaved,” in charge of defending Benghazi, which increasingly seems to have slipped from the Libyan leader’s control.

Saadi engineered before his departure for Benghazi a pro-Gadaffi manifestation on Green Square in the Libyan capital Tripoli in which he was cheered by some 1,000 soccer fans of Tripoli clubs Al Ahli, in which Saadi has a significant equity stake, and Al Ettihad.

Benghazi’s soccer stadium has since Saadi took charge of the pro-Gadaffi forces become a sa…

Corruption Investigation Signals Restructuring of Egyptian Soccer

Egyptian state prosecutor Abdul Mejid Mahmoud is investigating corruption charges against senior figures in Egyptian soccer, including Egyptian Football Association (EFA) president Samir Zaher, according to soccer officials and analysts as well as Egyptian media reports.

Some analysts and sources close to the prosecutor said that Mahmoud is likely to file formal charges related to the financial management of those under investigation.

The sources said the officials under investigation also included Egyptian national team goalkeeper coach Ahmed Soliman and National Sport Council Chairman Hassan Mohamed Ezzat Sakr, whose portfolio includes soccer.

Zaher, Soliman and Saqr did not respond to requests for comment.

“It is my understanding that an investigation has been opened into highly placed officials of Egyptian soccer and the financial flows associated with them,” said Mark Wotte, head coach-manager at Egyptian Premier League club Ismailia SC, who refrained from identifying specific of…

Libyan Soccer Stadium Becomes Safe Haven for Fleeing Turks

The soccer stadium in the Libyan city of Benghazi has become a safe haven for thousands of Turks seeking to flee the Libyan regime’s brutal attempts to put down a popular revolt seeking to oust Col. Moammar Gadaffi from power.

Turks in the stadium said they could hear fire fights and explosions in the distance. They said children in Libya’s second largest city as young as 15 were armed with automatic Kalashnikov guns.

Turkey's foreign trade minister Kursad Tuzman said looters had attacked Turkish companies, which have projects in Libya worth more than $15 billion, and officials estimated there were 25,000 Turks working there.

Some 600 Turks were evacuated from Benghazi over the weekend and another 250 were said to be travelling by bus to neighbouring Egypt.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has made forging closer diplomatic and economic ties with the Middle East and the Arab world a priority, said four planes and two ships were being sent to Libya to evacuate stranded citize…

Is Democracy a Threat to the World Cup?

By Tom Taylor, Columnist of The Stanford Daily and TTWMES Guest Columnist

When FIFA chose the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups it picked the two least democratic countries from the list of bidding nations. Qatar is an absolute monarchy, and Russia, while technically a democracy, is virtually a one-party state.

With such infinite power it is hard to question the ability of the Russian and Qatari governments to put on a show. Not only do both have fantastic resources at their disposal, but they also are under no pressure to justify their actions to a demanding electorate. They are thus free to lavish these resources on whatever might take their fancy.

The difference between democratic and non-democratic nations holding sporting tournaments is acutely clear in the run up to the 2012 Olympics in London. Where Chinese authorities in Beijing could do absolutely anything, even jailing dissidents and forcibly evicting many of their own citizens to make way for construction, the orga…

Tunisian Soccer Protests Preceded Revolt That Toppled the President

A build-up of sporadic anti-government protests on the soccer pitch preceded the mass demonstrations that erupted in Tunisia in December, led to the toppling of Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, and sparked the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, according to Tunisian and Arab soccer analysts.

Tunisian fans jeered Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou in November during the Orange CAF Champions League return final between Esperance Tunis and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fans charged that the Togolose referee in the first encounter between the two teams in Congo in which Esperance lost had been corrupt and waved banknotes at Hayatou.

The protests led to clashes between the fans who like their counterparts in Egypt are street battled-hardened and police.

As far back as 2005, dissatisfaction with the Ben Ali regime boiled to the surface at soccer matches. Fans shouted anti-Ben Ali slogans during the Tunisia…

Egyptian Soccer Clubs Urge Speedy Resumption of Suspended League (Updated)

Egypt’s major soccer clubs have urged the country’s football federation to quickly lift its month-old suspension of professional league matches imposed at the outset of anti-government protests that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The soccer clubs made their demand known in a meeting to discuss the 2010-2011 season with Egyptian Football Association (EFA) President Sami Zaher that was attended by 14 of the Premier League’s 16 members.

The conclusions of the meeting, published on the EFA’s website, made clear that the Egyptian military, which is running the country since Mubarak’s forced resignation earlier this month, would have the final say in deciding when the Premier League would be restarted.

The EFA said the clubs had requested the restart of the league “in arrangement with the country’s authorities.”

To compensate for the fact that teams have not trained and played for a month, the clubs asked the EFA to annul for the current season any potential relegation.

A proposa…

Iran Gets Paid For Nigerian Match Cancellation despite Seizure Iranian Arms Shipment

Iran, supported by FIFA, soccer’s world body, has succeeded in having cake and eating it at the same time.

After being caught supplying arms to Nigerian opposition groups, Iran is being reimbursed for the expense of Nigeria cancelling a friendly soccer match in Tehran.

Officially Nigeria cancelled the match two weeks before it was scheduled to take place in November because it said some of its top players were suffering injuries.

Privately, Nigerian officials said the match was cancelled in response to Nigerian authorities seizing 13 containers with Iranian weapons, including rockets, grenades and mortars labelled as building materials. The authorities believe the weapons confiscated in the port of Lagos were intended for militant Nigerian Muslim groups.

French shipping company CMA CGM SA said hat an Iranian company used one of its vessels to illegally transport the arms to Lagos after labelling them as “packages of glass wool and pallets of stone.”

The Football Federation of the Isl…

Libyan Soccer Fans Cheer Gaddafi Son in Tripoli

Soccer fans in Libya, wracked by anti-government protests in which security forces have killed dozens, appear to be playing a very different role from their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia.

If Libyan state-run television is to be believed, some 1,000 fans of Tripoli clubs Al Ahli and Al Ettihad gathered in the Libyan capital’s Green Square to cheer one of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s son, Saadi.

Saadi toured the square on the roof of a car, waving and shaking the hands of supporters, who chanted “God, Libya and Moammar only.”

The cheering of Saadi, who several years ago imposed himself as a member of Libya’s national team as part of the Gaddafi family’s effort to employ soccer as a form of political and social control, contrasted starkly with events elsewhere in North Africa.

Soccer fans in Egypt and Tunisia played key roles in overthrowing the dictatorships of Messrs. Hosni Mubarak and Zine Abedine Ben Ali.

The cheering of Saadi came as he was put in charge of brutally crush…

Egypt to Request Postponement of African Championship match Against South Africa

Egypt will ask the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to postpone by three months its crucial match against South Africa scheduled for March 24 because of the turmoil in the country.

Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com reported that the postponement was designed to allow the country’s national squad to get up to speed after a month of forced inactivity.

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) suspended all professional league matches on January 24 and banned training to prevent the soccer pitch from becoming a rallying point for the opposition that earlier this month forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in office.

"The team must have suffered a dip in form after the league was halted, so we want to put off the game with South Africa," FilGoal.com quoted Egyptian assistant national coach Hamada Sedki as saying.

"We will send a letter to CAF on Wednesday. We will ask them to play the game in June should they accept our request," Sedki added.

F…

Arab Revolutionaries to Play Soccer Friendly despite Historical Animosity

Egypt and Tunisia, the two Arab countries most successful to date in overthrowing their dictators, have agreed to play a soccer friendly despite their longstanding football animosity.

Egyptian Football Association board member Ayman Younes said a date for the match, dubbed “the revolutionists’ game,” had yet to set.

Tunisians were the first in the Arab world to rise in protest, forcing Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali to last month seek exile in Saudi Arabia. The uprising has sparked a wave of anti-government protests across the Middle East and North Africa that earlier this month toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and has sparked brutal crackdowns in Libya and Bahrain.

Younes said Egypt and Tunisia hoped that FIFA would incorporate the match in its international calendar as an annual event.

Both Egypt and Tunisia, alongside Algeria, which is also confronting anti-government protests, have suspended all professional league matches to prevent the soccer pitch from becoming…

Anti-Government Protests Force FIFA to Postpone Yemen Qualifier

FIFA, soccer’s ruling world body, has postponed Yemen’s home Asian qualifer against Singapore because of anti-government protests wracking the country.

In a burst of optimism, FIFA postponed the match for a week, scheduling it for March 2. Privately, however, Yemeni soccer officials say they are discussing with FIFA and Singapore playing the match in a third country.

Yemen has been witnessing for the past month mass protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 30 years in office. Supporters and proponents of the Yemeni leader have repeatedly clashed in the capital Sana’a in the last eight days of uninterrupted demonstrations. Six people were killed in the protests on Friday.

The protests are part of a wave of anti-government demonstrations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that have already toppled two leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, and led to brutal crackdowns by security forces in Bahrain and…