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Showing posts from March, 2011

Somali Journalist Killed While Covering Soccer Match Amid Heavy Fighting

A Somali Sports journalist was hit in the Somali capital of Mogadishu by stray bullets and killed while covering a soccer match, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

The death of Ahmed Hassan Ahmed, a sports reporter for SIMBA radio, weeks after a star soccer player was killed in a suicide bombing highlights that nowhere does soccer involve a greater act of courage and defiance than in war-ravaged Somalia, a soccer-crazy Arab nation straddling Africa’s strategic Gulf of Aden.

Ahmed died of bullet wounds in the stomach and the shoulder.
“As we were covering the match between SITT and Dekadaha, Ahmed fell to the ground at the second half of the match ” Somali Football Federation (SFF) spokesman Shafii Mohyadin Abokor said.

Somali league teams SITT and Dekadaha were playing in Mogadishu’s Hodan district as African Union-backed forces were battling militant Islamists of Al Qaeda-associated of Al Shabab, which controls large chunks of Somalia.

Soccer is a major …

Egyptian Soccer Players Boycott Training in Protest against Lagging Payment

A majority of troubled Alexandria soccer club Ittihad al-Skandarya’s players have boycotted training for the second time in a month in protest against not having been paid for three months. The protest comes as the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) meets in emergency session to discuss the fallout of political and financial turmoil that month forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign, according to Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com.

Players refused to train earlier this month after the club failed to pay their house rents. Ittihad has an EGP 930,000 ($156,000) a month player payroll.

Demonstrators forced the chairman of Ittihad, a member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, and three of the club’s board members to resign in early March because of Ittihad’s poor performance in the league. The board members were the first casualties of fans flexing the muscles of their newly found people power.

The latest protest comes amid controversy over an EFA proposal to introduce financial au…

Soccer vs. Islam: The Battle for Egypt’s Future

Soccer-crazy Egyptians, preoccupied with the direction their revolution is taking in the wake of last month’s ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office, took this weekend’s defeat by South Africa in a crucial African qualifier in their stride. The loss all but means that the seven-time African champion has no chance of qualifying for this year’s African finals.

The calm with which Egyptians accepted defeat, contrasts starkly with riots that erupted on two continents in late 2009 when Algeria stopped Egypt from making it to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The differing responses to defeat highlight the impact of past political manipulation of the beautiful game and the public’s shifting focus in an environment in which the post-Mubarak military government has not hitched its popularity to soccer success and the fuelling of nationalist sentiment.

“For the first time, I am not upset because we lost. In the past, football was the only thing that cheers us up, but now …

Portuguese Coach Queiroz to Sign With Iran

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz will travel to Tehran later this week to finalize his contract as Iran’s new national coach after pro-longing negotiations for weeks to monitor whether anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East would also shake Iran.

Queroz started talks with Iran in February at a moment that opponents of the governments were calling for mass protests in the country. In response, the government temporarily suspended professional soccer matches in the capital Tehran. Government repression stymied the protests before they were able to gain momentum.

State-run Iranian Press TV said agreement with Queiroz was facilitated by the fact that the Portuguese anti-doping agency had lifted its six-month suspension of the trainer for insulting anti-doping agents. Queiroz was sacked as Portugal's national coach as a result of the ban.
Queiroz was Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant manager at Manchester United before becoming Portugal's head coach.

Queiroz initially tur…
Law Suits likely to Spark Restructuring of Egyptian Soccer

Corruption charges filed against former Egyptian Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy in the wake of the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak have heightened concerns that financially troubled top-tier soccer clubs may no longer enjoy generous government support. The fears are compounded by a second case filed by an Egyptian lawyer against Fahmy that seeks to halt all public funding of Egyptian soccer.

If successful, the law suits would initiate a radical restructuring of soccer club ownership in Egypt where half of the country’s 16 Premier League teams and many lower league squads are owned by government institutions, the military and the police. The legal efforts to curtail politically motivated public funding of soccer heighten the financial crisis confronting clubs as a result of the three-month suspension of Egyptian professional league matches in a bid to prevent the soccer pitch from becoming an opposition rallying point. They…

Libyan Islamists stand to gain with or without Gadhafi

By James M. Dorsey

Deutsche Welle

An alleged dual British-Libyan jihadist has been paraded in front of the international media to support the regime's claim that the revolt against Gadhafi's 41-year rule was being directed by al-Qaeda.

Libya has put the spotlight on the fact that it may be one of the Middle Eastern and North African countries where militant Islamists emerge strengthened from the Arab struggle to throw off the yoke of authoritarian rule.

Salah Mohammed Ali Abu Obah, a 43-year old Manchester resident, said he was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaeda affiliate founded by Libyan fighters in Afghanistan. He said he had been detained earlier this month by Libyan security forces in the town of Zawiya, west of the capital Tripoli. Abu Obah described himself as a low-level LIFG fundraiser.

Abu Obah's statements did little to substantiate Gadhafi's claim but fuelled Western concerns that jihadists and militant Islamists were playing a…

Why Iranian football clubs push for control of broadcast revenues

By James M. Dorsey

The National

The business of football, like many other things in revolutionary Iran, ticks to a clock of its own.

The top football teams pay government broadcasters for the privilege of having their matches aired. Advertising revenues are collected by municipal stadium owners. Income from ticket sales never leaves the coffers of the municipal stadium administrator.

As a result Iranian football clubs are strapped for cash and dependent on government handouts.
Club executives recently gathered to explore ways of gaining greater control of their finances.

One proposal by Ali Fathollahzadeh, a former president of Tehran's Esteghlal Cultural and Athletic Club, one of Iran and Asia's most popular and successful clubs, to challenge existing broadcasting arrangements by launching a privately owned football channel, offered the most far-reaching approach.

If licensed, Mr Fathollahzadeh's channel would become the first privately owned television channel in the Isl…

Saudi Drops Yemeni President to Prevent Turmoil from Spilling Across its Border

By James M Dorsey

Middle East Institute blog

Saudi Arabia, in a blow to embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has rejected a request by its erstwhile ally to mediate a resolution of the Yemeni crisis and signaled that it is looking for a peaceful transition of power in the country.

Saudi favoring of Saleh’s departure is fuelled by concern that Yemen could become another Libya with US-trained military units commanded by Saleh’s son and nephew battling the regular armed forces led by popular General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar as well as protesters demanding the president’s resignation. It contrasts starkly with the kingdom’s intervention in Bahrain on behalf of the island’s minority Sunni Muslim rulers. Saudi rulers fear the spillover effect of escalating tension in Yemen on already restive Ismailis in their southwestern Jizan and Najran provinces and hope to limit the spread of the wave of protests further into the Gulf by easing the country’s power transition.

The Saudi decision spo…

Football Pitches: A Battleground for North Africa’s Future

Image
Football matches are but one battle fought on the pitches of North Africa. The other is the struggle for the region’s future.

By James M. Dorsey
Play the Game 21 March 2011

Egyptian Al-Ahly fans after winning the CAF Champions League in 2005. Photo by Msamy used under a Wikimedia Commons License.

James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and blogger with an in-depth knowledge on sport and the Middle East. This article is the first of three in an article-suite on how sport has been and is an important and considerable influencer on the current upheavals in the Middle East and North African countries.

Football matches are but one battle fought on the pitches of North Africa. The other is the struggle for the region’s future.

With fans emerging as key forces in the anti-government protests that toppled the presidents of football-crazy Egypt and Tunisia and as both hired guns for Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi and participants in the rebellion to overthrow his 41-year old rule, aut…

Qatar Hopes to Cool Stadiums with Artificial Cloud

A Qatar University group of scientists has designed a remote control artificial cloud that would hover like a helicopter in the air during the 2022 World Cup to cool off stadiums and shield them from the desert country’s blistering summer sun.

Saud Abdul Ghani, head of the university’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department, said his group would collaborate with the Qatar Science and Technology Park to build a prototype of the cloud at a cost of about $500,000.

The cloud, filled with helium and built of light carbon material, would use four solar-powered engines provide shade by manoeuvring between the stadium and the sun.

Ghani said commercial models could be used at beaches and car parks and could possibly be fetched by mobile phones.

Qatar was awarded the hosting of the 2022 World despite a warning by FIFA investigators that s that the summer heat – which can rise to 50° Celsius or 122° Fahrenheit – could pose a potential health risk to players, officials and spectators.

Egyptian Team’s Tarnished Image Rides on Soccer Match against South Africa

Egypt’s national soccer team may be ill-prepared for this Saturday’s crucial African championship match against South Africa, but the popular revolt that last month ousted President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power has heightened its motivation, according to the squad’s controversial coach, Hassan Shehata.

A seven-time winner Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt, which is languishing at the bottom of its group, needs to defeat South Africa to revive hope of qualifying for the finals. The team is gearing up for the game with professional league matches suspended for the past three months as a result of the popular revolt that toppled Mubarak.

"The game is going to be tough because all local competitions have been halted for a while, and we didn't prepare well for the match. But what I'm sure of is that the players are high-spirited; they became more attached to Egypt after the revolution," Shehata said in an interview on Egyptian TV.

Shehata and the team have more than …

Soccer Wars: The Battle for the Future of Somalia’s Children

Soccer goes to the core of war-ravaged Somalia’s battle for the future of its children.

Senior Al Shabab commander Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys this weekend fired a shot across the bow of the campaign of the Somali Football Federation (SFF) to lure child soldiers away from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia that controls large chunks of Somalia and its capital, Mogadishu.

“We recruit underage children to fight for us, the children are ready to die for their country and religion” Aweys said defiantly in a speech in a mosque in Elasha Biyaha, a camp for Somalis displaced by the Islamists’ war against the embattled US-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Aweys described the case of a 13-year old who although traumatized by the sound of artillery and frightened by the fighting declared before he died that Jihad is sweet.

The 13-year old’s death is what the SFF has set out to prevent by offering child-soldiers a career in soccer. The SFF…

Hitting Gadaffi: More Questions Than Answers

Reports of initial European-US military strikes against Libya raise the question of what the Western military has to achieve to fulfil the United Nations Security Council authorizing a no-fly zone. They also beg the question of how the United States and Europe will ensure that military operations do not backfire politically on the West as well as the rebels opposing Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi. What is immediately clear is that the military operations are designed to spark dissent within Gadaffi’s own forces in the hope that this leads to their collapse. It is a strategy that failed in the case of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

At the very least, Western forces with the United States, France and Britain in the lead, will have to establish a buffer zone dividing Gadaffi’s forces from the rebels in their bid to guarantee that Gadaffi does not retake the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya. That may be difficult with air power alone. So will protection of rebel pockets in Misura…

African Soccer Body Bans Matches in Libya and Ivory Coast

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has ordered an African Champions League match between Libya's Al Ittihad, the club that Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi's controversial son Saadi used to play for, and Ivory Coast's Jeunesse Club Abidjan, to be played in a third country because of the political violence in the two African nations.

The United Nations Security Council declared this week a no-fly zone above Libya in a bid to prevent Gadaffi from using his air force against protesters and rebels demanding an end to the Libyan leader’s 41-year rule. Gadaffi’s brutal crackdown on the protests has earned him international condemnation. Ivory Coast is wracked by violence sparked by the refusal of the country’s incumbent president to step down after having lost an election to his political opponent.

Al Ittihad and Jeunesse Club Abidjan were due to face each other this weekend but must now agree on a neutral venue for a one-off match to be played between April 1 and 3, …

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 in mid-April despite their longstanding football animosity.

Tunisians were the first in the Arab world to rise in protest, forcing Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali in January seek exile in Saudi Arabia. Demonstrators last month ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office.

The uprisings have sparked a wave of anti-government protests across the Middle East and North Africa that have sparked brutal crackdowns in Libya and Bahrain.

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 an opposition rallying point.

Egypt’s military rulers this week authorized a resumption of the country’s league on April 15. Tunisia has yet to follow suit. Tunisian authorities, concerned that the soccer pitch could becom…

Bin Hammam Challenges Blatter for FIFA Presidency

Asian Football Confederation chairman Mohammed Bin Hammam, in a move designed to increase Qatari and Middle Eastern influence in global soccer, announced that he will challenge Sepp Blatter in FIFA presidential elections scheduled for June 1.

Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to his country’s royal family, has long been critical of Blatter’s undisputed 12-year old leadership of world soccer’s governing body. Bin Hamman, whose candidacy comes three months after Qatar won its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, argues that change is needed to shore up FIFA’s image tarnished by a number of corruption scandals.

FIFA insiders believe that Bin Hammam has at best a 50 per cent change of defeating Blatter, who is being challenged in an election for the first time.

Bin Hammam said in remarks announcing his candidacy that he would broaden FIFA's decision-making power to make it more inclusive would and spread its wealth. Bin Hammam said he would replace the current 24-member executi…

Palestinian Emerges Against the Odds as Israeli Soccer Star

Taleb Tawatha’s emergence as one of Israel’s brightest soccer talents is a tale of fighting the Israeli odds of being an Arab in a predominantly Jewish society, a black in a majority Palestinian white community and a scion of one of the Israel’s most disadvantaged, underdeveloped towns.

A shy, scrawny 18-year old whose family hails from Sudan, Tawatha cemented his billing as the world’s best Under-20 left back and a rising star in Israeli Premier League team Maccabi Haifa’s last six matches where he substituted for injured international defender Peter Masilela, one of the team’s best ever left-backs..

His performance earned him an invitation by Israel national team coach Luis Fernandez to train with his squad, which is in desperate need for a reliable left flank defender.

Tawatha’s journey to soccer stardom started in Jisr ez-Zarka an Arab town that lies in between the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa and is known as one of Israel’s municipalities with the lowest average income a…

Egyptian Military Authorizes Resumption of Soccer Matches

Egypt’s military rulers have authorized a lifting of a ban on professional soccer matches in a bid to limit the impact of the two-month old suspension, prevent an exodus of players and coaches and quell growing unrest among fans.

Egyptian Football Association (EFA) spokesman Azmi Megahed said matches would resume on April 15. He said the league season would last until July 11.

The government and the military banned soccer matches in late January as mass anti-government protests erupted that forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11 after 30 years in office.

The military has since been reluctant to authorize a resumption because it feared that the soccer pitch would become a rallying point for continued protests that would undermine its efforts to return Egypt to business as usual and lead it to free and fair elections within six months.

The lifting of the ban came days after the Egypt’s Premier League clubs threatened to refuse to lend their top players to the military’s…

Ex Turkish Player Hakan Sukur to Run for Parliament

Legendary Turkish soccer player Hakan Sukur will run for parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Democratic Party (AKP) in elections scheduled for June 12.

By recuiting Sukur and other celebrities as well as increasing the number of women running for parliament, Erdogan hopes to secure a sufficient majority for further changes to Turkey’s constitution.

Sukur last year supported Erdogan’s referendum that approved initial changes to the 1980 constitution drafted under military rule.

Former Prisoner Accuses Egyptian Goalkeeper Coach of Beating Him in Prison

A former political prisoner who was jailed for 12 years by the government of former President Hosni Mubarak has accused Egyptian national team goalkeeper coach Ahmed Soliman of assaulting and beating him in prison.

Magdi Zaki, who was detained for 17 years, said the incident happened when Soliman, widely believed to be an officer of the hated Egyptian police force, intervened in an altercation between Zaki and a police informer.

In a video posted on YouTube, Zaki points to scars from stitches on his face and head, which he says were the result of Soliman’s beatings.

Soliman has yet to comment on the allegation.


Soliman is reportedly also under investigation for corruption alongside other senior Egyptian soccer executives.

Links between the Mubarak regime and the country’s soccer management go far beyond Soliman. Egyptian national team coach Hassan Shehata is under fire for having supported Mubarak while many of the team’s fans were on Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding the president’s r…

Foreign Players Threaten to Leave Egypt Because of Financial Turmoil

Foreign players playing for Premier Egyptian League clubs are threatening to seek greener pastures if Egypt’s military rulers fail to lift the two-month ban on professional league matches and Egyptian clubs prove unable to live up to their financial commitments.

The loss of foreign players and possibly coaches could severely damage the soccer standing and performance of Egypt, one of Africa’s best performers and one of the few that has been able to fund the acquisition of talent from abroad.

Egypt’s military rulers have been reluctant to lift the ban on matches, imposed in late January when mass anti-government protests erupted that last month forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in office. The military fears that soccer matches could become a rallying point for protesters who would complicate its efforts to lead Egypt to democracy by this fall.

The ban has deprived clubs of revenues. With half of Egypt’s 16 Premier League clubs owned by government institutions, the…

Former Soccer Player Leads Libyan Opposition

A former striker for Libya’s national soccer team with a passion for Italian soccer, who served until last month as Col. Moammar Gadaffi’s justice minister has emerged as the undisputed leader of the Libyan opposition.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, a soft-spoken lawyer, who heads the opposition National Council in rebel-controlled Benghazi, has no ambition according to friends, to succeed Gadaffi. He owes his leadership to the fact that he was the only member of Gadaffi’s cabinet who dared criticize the Libyan leader publicly while in office and to his popularity as a soccer player.

Human Rights Watch last year praised Jalil for his criticism as justice minister of the security services, charging that they ignored court orders and held people in attention who had been acquitted by the courts.

Jalil brings to the task of coordinating the resistance to Gadaffi, achieving international recognition of the opposition, securing international military assistance and holding the opposition together …

Bin Hammam Calls For FIFA Pressure on Israel But Stops Short of Launching Soccer Peace Initiative

World soccer body FIFA is likely to toughen its stance on Israel if Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam succeeds in challenging Sepp Blatter in FIFA presidential elections scheduled for June.

That is the conclusion of remarks made to World Football Insider by Bin Hamman, who has hinted that he will challenge Blatter, but has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
Bin Hammam has argued in recent months that FIFA needs a change of leadership to polish its image tarnished by corruption scandals and Blatter’s 12-year long imperious rule. FIFA insiders say Bin Hammam has only an outside chance in defeating Blatter.

Speaking to World Football Insider, Bin Hammam took FIFA to task for doing too little to press Israel to drop its crippling travel restrictions on Palestinian national team players who are based in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and need Israeli permission to travel from one territory to the other.

Palestinians attribute their failure to ad…