Showing posts from August, 2011

Bin Hammam associate announces candidacy for AFC presidency

By James M. Dorsey

Yousuf al Serkal (Source: Gulf News Archive)
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice-president Yousuf al-Serkal has put himself forward to replace suspended Qatari national Mohammed bin Hammam as head of the continent’s governing soccer body.
Mr. Bin Hammam remains nominally in charge of the AFC while he launches legal challenges against his lifetime ban from world soccer body FIFA for allegedly buying votes in his failed bid to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
The AFC has delayed filling the presidency while the appeals continue, but United Arab Emirates official Mr. Al-Serkal, widely viewed as an associate of Mr. Bin Hammam, says he intends to run for the position.
“Now is the opportunity… I have more to offer Asian football as a president,'' Mr. Al-Serkel told SNTV.
"At the moment, Bin Hammam is busy sorting out the various allegations before him. He has been given a year's time by the AFC to come clean from all the charges made against him. If …

Iranian soccer fans protest government’s failure to rescue Lake Orumiyeh

By James M. Dorsey

Iranian authorities have arrested scores of soccer fans and protesters demanding during a match this weekend that the government take measures to prevent Lake Orumiyeh in the predominantly Azeri northwest of the country from drying up.
The protest followed an Iranian parliament vote against allocating funds to channel water from the Araz River to raise the level of the salt lake that lies between the Iranian provinces of East and West Azerbaijan near the border with Turkey. Parliament suggested instead that Azeris living near the lake be relocated.
The protest was the third time this year that anti-government sentiment spilled onto the soccer pitch, one of the few places that strength of numbers and moments of intense passion spark expressions of dissent.
The protest erupted during a match on August 25 in the city of Tabriz between storied Iranian top league team Tractor Sazi SC, a flashpoint of Iranian Azerbaijan’s identity politics that is owned by state-run Iran Tra…

Libya poses policy challenge to Asian giants

SHARE  ·   COMMENT   ·   PRINT   ·   T+ APMahmoud Jibril, deputy chairman of the Libyan Transition National Council at a press conference in Doha on August 23, 2011, after rebel forces overran Qadhafi's Bab al-Azizya headquarters in Tripoli. Change by any possible means is the name of the game in the Middle East and North Africa. An offer to assist Libya with its post-Qadhafi reconstruction and rehabilitation coupled with India's remaining days as president of the United Nations Security Council and an invitation to attend this week's Friends of Libya conference in Paris enable India to turn the page in its somewhat troubled relations with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-backed rebels poised to form the North African country's new government. The opportunity arises as India alongside China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – the five Security Council members that did not support the imposition last March of a no-fly zone in Libya and NATO's bomb…

Algerian-Qatari tension over Libya spills onto the soccer pitch

Islamist rebel Abdel Hakim Belhadj  By James M. Dorsey
Diplomatic tensions between Algeria and Qatar over the Gulf state’s support for NATO-backed Libyan rebels are spilling onto the soccer field.
As part of a litany of alleged anti-Algerian moves by Qatar, Algerian media are accusing the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), of seeking to undermine Algeria’s soccer prospects by offering Algerian players in Europe large sums of money and Qatari citizenship if they move to its national team. The media have not identified specific instances and no Algerian player has recently packed up his bags and moved to Qatar.
Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, was several years ago slapped on its fingers by world soccer body FIFA for trying to lure Latin American players with promises of money and citizenship. FIFA has since tightened the rules governing the acquisition of foreigners for national teams. The Algerian media charge that the approach to the count…

Soccer: a tool to further Palestinian statehood (JMD on BBC)

Syria starts feeling the pain of Western sanctions

Western sanctions start to hit home in Syria’s oil sector (Source: Syrian Oil and Gaz News)
By James M. Dorsey
Embattled President Bashar al Assad is feeling the pain of Western sanctions for the first time since anti-government protests erupted in Syria five months ago.
Already deprived of $8 billion a year in tourism receipts, Syria was this week forced to halt all US dollar denominated transactions as a result of new US sanctions announced last Tuesday. As if that were not bad enough, some of the world’s largest oil companies have severed their ties to Syria in anticipation of a new European Union sanction regime.
Taken together, the measures aimed at forcing Mr. Assad to halt his brutal crackdown on the protesters are the first by Western governments and institutions to be more than symbolic in the short term. The halt on US dollar transactions was prompted by US Treasury sanctions against the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, which handles most of Syria’s oil business and a ban o…

Soccer players speak out about their ordeal during Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on protesters

Awaiting trial and barred from playing: Alaa Hubail (Source: CarbonatedTV)
By James M. Dorsey
When Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa came out in support of peaceful anti-government protests earlier this year, national soccer team players and brothers Alaa and Mohammed Hubail believed the time had come for them to add their voices to demands for greater political freedom and economic opportunity.
The two star players had been until then reluctant to join mass protests on the Gulf island, afraid that their popularity and reputations would make them targets. The crown prince’s statement suggested they had nothing to fear. They joined a march in February of several hundred athletes to Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital of Manama, the focal point of the Shiite Muslim-led protests against the Gulf nation's minority Sunni Muslim rulers.
That proved to be a major mistake as the 31-year old Alaa Hubail recounted in an interview with The Associated Press’s Mike Casey, his firs…

Asian football struggles to shed off-field malaise (Interview with AP)

JOHN DUERDEN  Associated PressFirst Posted: August 25, 2011 - 9:51 pm
Last Updated: August 25, 2011 - 9:52 pm AAA

SEOUL, South Korea — The motto of the Asian Football Confederation is 'The Future is Asia', yet a series of recent controversies indicate the game seems unable to shake off its unhappy history of corruption, bribery and political interference across the continent. Asian football may be making great strides in some areas — luring top quality players — but the problems off the pitch remain as a brake on development, with Syria's expulsion from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers being yet another example.
In its second-round win over Tajikistan in July, Syria selected George Mourad despite the fact that the player had represented Sweden earlier in his career and was therefore ineligible.
The Syrian Football Association queried the decision and said FIFA's ban was politically motivated — a charge that is a common and often legitimate refrain in the Middle E…

Soccer-playing Qaddafi son seeks to negotiate ceasefire in Libya

(Al Saadi Al Qaddafi (Source: By James M. Dorsey
Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Qaddafi’s soccer-playing son, Al Saadi Al Qaddafi, has reportedly offered to broker a ceasefire with NATO and the United States in an email to a CNN correspondent.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson said he received an email on Wednesday from Mr. Qaddafi, saying that he was authorized to negotiate a deal.
"I will try to save my city Tripoli and 2 millions of people living there ... otherwise Tripoli will be lost forever like Somalia,” Mr. Qaddafi said, referring to the civil war that has ravaged that East African state.  Without a cease-fire, Mr. Qaddafi said, "soon it will be a sea of blood."
The 38-year Qaddafi scion was reported earlier this week to have been captured by NATO-backed rebels after they entered the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Al Saadi, a businessman and the head of the Libyan soccer association, reportedly commanded a key brigade in the Libyan mili…

South Africa agrees to replace Libya as host of 2013 Nations Cup in bid to pre-empt Nigeria

By James M. Dorsey
Libya has agreed to withdraw as host of the 2013 African Cup of Nations in favour of South Africa ss rebels hunt for Colonel Moammar Qaddafi and the country heads for a prolonged and possibly messy transition to democracy.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) said in a statement that it had signed an agreement to that effect with its Libyan counterpart.
SAFA said that South Africa had effectively swapped hosting dates with Libya. In return for withdrawing from the 2013 tournament, SAFA said that the troubled North African nation would host the 2017 games that originally had been awarded to South Africa.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) had been pressuring Libya to recognize earlier rather than later that it may not be able to host the 2013 Cup so that a replacement could be found in a timely fashion.
CAF wanted to avoid a repeat of the scramble in April when South Africa agreed to host at the last minute the African Youth Championship, which had ori…

Bin Hammam appeals FIFA’s banning him for life from soccer

Mohammed Bin Hammam (Source: By James M. Dorsey
Suspended Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam has appealed world soccer body FIFA’s decision to ban him for life from involvement in soccer and oust him as the body’s vice president.
In a statement, the 62-year old Qatari national said that he had filed with the soccer body’s appeals committee his appeal against last month’s verdict by the group’s ethic committee that found him guilty of bribery.
Mr. Bin Hammam, who has asserted that the charges against him had been trumped up to prevent him from challenging FIFA president Sepp Blatter in last June’s presidential election said that he was “not hoping for justice to prevail” but had filed the appeal “ as a protocol to enable me access to the Court of Arbitration of Sport."
Mr. Bin Hammam is the most senior figure ever to have been banned by FIFA and is at the center of the worst corruption scandal in the organization’s 107-year…

The colonel's solitude - interview in El Mundo


Damage limitation: China and Russia have options in Libya and Syria but time is running out

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutuoglu visits Benghazi (Source: Al Jazeera)

By James M. Dorsey
China and Russia would do well to take a leaf out of Turkey’s playbook in trying to recover lost ground with Libyan rebels taking control of their country even though Colonel Moammar Qaddafi remains at large.
Turkey like China and Russia alongside India, Brazil and South Africa initially opposed foreign military intervention in Libya. But unlike the others Turkey reversed its position early on and became a member of the Libya Contact Group that groups NATO and the Arab League.
It is too late for the five United Nations Security Council members to undo the fact that in contrast to Turkey they continue to oppose the military intervention as well as the fact that Mr. Qaddafi’s opponents took up arms against him.
Their position threatens now to haunt them as they brace themselves for the fact that they may not get a significant share of Libya’s post-Qaddafi reconstruction pie. It also confronts th…

US and the Middle East: PR fiasco looms for Obama

RSIS presents the following commentary US and the Middle East: PR fiasco looms for Obama by James M. Dorsey. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward anycomments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries,
No. 123/2011 dated 24 August 2011 US and the Middle East:
PR fiasco looms for Obama
By James M. Dorsey Synopsis

President Obama faces a public relations disaster in the Arab and Muslim world next month with his expected rejection of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations General Assembly. Obama could do much to restore his country's image and reaffirm the US as a player despite its unpopular policies.


COME SEPTEMBER the United States will face a major public relations disaster in its Middle East policy when the UN General Assembly (UNGA) votes on Palestinian statehood. President Obama has vowed to oppose UN recognition of a Palestinian state …