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Showing posts from September, 2011

Gulf states keep winds of change at bay – but for how long?

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Bahrain elections (Source: @bna_ar)
By James M. Dorsey
Oil wealth and demographics have so far largely shielded a majority of the six Gulf Cooperation Council members from the brunt of the Arab revolt sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, but have hardly insulated them from the winds of change.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have until now successfully sought to ring fence themselves by supporting Bahrain's brutal squashing earlier this year of mass anti-government protests, bankrolling Oman, splashing billions of dollars on social spending at home and banking on the fact that a majority in the Gulf prefers reform to revolt and the fears of nationals of the smaller Gulf states that public protest would open a Pandora's box with expatriate majorities putting forward demands of their own.
The measures are likely to at best buy the Gulf states time. Their ring fencing strategy is threatened both from within the GCC as well as by the revolt elsewhere in …

Interpol issues arrest warrant for Qaddafi son for soccer crimes

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Al Saad al Qaddai (Source: Mafiatoday.com)
By James M. Dorsey
World police body Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for ousted Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi’s soccer-playing son, Al Saad al Qaddafi, for alleged crimes committed while he was head of the country's football federation.
Interpol said Al Saadi, who earlier this month fled to Niger, was being sought at the request of the Transition National Council (TNC) "for allegedly misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation." Interpol’s red notice demands that Al Saadi’s host country arrest him "with a view to returning him to Libya where an arrest warrant for him has been issued."
The world police body noted that Mr. Qaddafi’s 38-year old son had also been a military commander involved in the brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators that sparked the United Nations no-fly zone and NATO intervention. Interpol said that Al Saadi’s assets ha…

Bradley's job a boost for U.S. credibility - JMD quotes

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By Jeff Carlisle
ESPN.com



Bob Bradley isn't the first American to try his luck abroad with a foreign national team, but his appointment could end up being the most important.  (Source: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images) An earthquake rippled through the U.S. soccer community this past weekend. And it came in the form of the Egypt Football Association announcing that Bob Bradley will be the head coach of its national team. To be clear, the announcement wasn't the kind of massive upheaval that cracked foundations and sent institutions crumbling. It was more the type of tremor that shook you, made you sit up and take notice, and ponder the long-term ramifications. Call it a 6.0 on soccer's Richter scale. It's worth noting that from a purely historical perspective, Bradley isn't the first American to try his luck abroad with a foreign national team. In 1930, Mark Scott Thompson became the first U.S. coach to head up another country's national team when he took over El S…

Western Sahara conflict erupts in violence on the soccer pitch

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Soccer practice in Laayoune (Source: The Road to 2010)
By James M. Dorsey
Morocco Tuesday sought to downplay as football hooliganism the death last weekend of seven people, including two policemen, in clashes at the end of a soccer match between local residents of the West Saharan port city of Dakhla and migrants from the north of the country.
Some 20 people were reported to have been wounded in the clashes in what the state-owned news agency MAP said was a fight between rival supporters of local club Mououdia Dakhla and Casablanca’s ChebabMohammedia .
The clashes, the worst in a year, reflected tension between the local population, many of whom see the migrants as an attempt by the Moroccan government to change the mineral-rich Western Sahara’s demography in a bid to prevent the region from voting for independence in an eventual referendum.
Morocco and the Algerian-backed Saharan independence movement Polisario Front fought a 25 year-long war that ended in 1991 with a United Nations-broke…

Embattled Yemeni leader turns to soccer to polish his tattered image

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Yemeni president Saleh poses with national soccer team (Source: Reuters)
By James M. Dorsey
Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s meeting Sunday with his country’s national youth soccer team highlights the importance of soccer as a battlefield in the struggle between Arab autocrats and pro-democracy activists.
Mr. Saleh congratulated team for their qualification for the 2011 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup finals barely two days after returning to Yemen from three months of treatment in Saudi Arabia of severe wounds he suffered in an attack in June on his presidential compound by opposition forces.
The Yemeni leader took time out to bask in the success of the squad in a bid to shore up his tattered image in a soccer-crazy country that is teetering on the brink of civil war as a result of sixth months of mass anti-government protests demanding his resignation from 33 years in office. He did so as troops commanded by his son attacked protesters and clashed with rebel army u…

Barcelona endorses $225 million Qatar shirt sponsorship deal

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By James M. Dorsey
European champions FC Barcelona Saturday approved a controversial $225 million shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Foundation, the first such a deal in the club’s illustrious history and the largest in soccer history.
Barcelona’s general assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the deal rejecting a petition by thousands of fans and despite its denunciation by the club’s former legendary coach Johan Cruijff who described the 5.5-year deal as “vulgar.”
The club signed the five-and-a-half year deal, touted as the largest shirt sponsorship deal in football history, in December but the decision to collect money for the first time in its history to display a logo on its jerseys did not go down well.
In a statement on its website, Barcelona said the assembly endorsed the deal with 697 votes against 76 and 36 abstentions.
The Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995, funds education, scientific research and community development projects primarily in the Middle East. The non-profit o…

Barcelona revisits Qatar sponsorship deal amid fan protests

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By James M. Dorsey
A revolt by fans has forced the board of European champions FC Barcelona to review its $225 million sponsorship deal with Qatar Foundation, the first in the club’s star-studded history.
The board is scheduled to discuss the deal on Saturday, which was concluded last December as Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. As a result of the deal, Barcelona’s willingness to wear the UNICEF logo for free has been relegated to the back of its players’ shirts.
Thousands of Barcelona fans revolted against the deal and signed a petition demanding its cancellation.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola expressed support for the deal on the club’s website. He described Qatar as "the most open Muslim country".
Mr. Guardiola, who played for Qatar's Al Ahly from 2003 to 2005 said that “it’s very good that we debate this and also a very good decision of the board’s to let the members decide on it. It’s one of the healthy democratic values we have. I can tell you that I live…

FIFA bans Iraq from playing qualifiers at home

World soccer body FIFA has banned Iraq from playing 2014 World Cup and 2012 Olympics qualifiers on home ground on Iraqi territory because of flaws in the country’s security arrangements.
In a letter citing security concerns published on the website of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), FIFA advised Iraq that it would have to play “until further notice” its home matches in a neutral venue.
FIFA noted that "the security plan established by the local organizing committee (for Iraq's September 2 third round World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Arbil) did not meet the structural, technical, organizational and operational requirement specified in FIFA Safety Regulations."
As a result, Iraq’s Brazilian coach Zico has to identify a neutral venue for its home qualifiers by early October.
Iraq ranks third in Group A of the AFC's Brazil 2014 qualifiers with three points from two matches. Jordan and China are ahead of them while Singapore sits at the bottom of the group.
Iraq…

Middle East teeters on the brink as Palestine and protests converge

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Demanding UN recognition: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
By James M. Dorsey
The Middle East and North Africa are on the brink of risky sabre rattling that could erupt into armed conflict as the region's ten-month old wave of anti-government protests converges with stalled efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Mr. Abbas’s request for United Nations Security Council recognition has put Palestine back on the agenda of both the international community and anti-government protesters. It has also put US credibility, US ability to influence events in the region and Washington’s relations with its closest allies on the line.
The United States has vowed to veto recognition despite the fact that it has been unable to square the circle of a veto with President Barak Obama's public support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and warnings by Arab leaders that a veto would substantially undermine US credibility and could affect relations with …

Arab autocrats ignore social media at their peril

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By James M. Dorsey
(Text of remarks at Singapore Global Dialogue)
If there is one event or series of events or region that has fuelled the debate about the impact on policy and policymaking as well as on social movements and protest of technology in general and social media in particular, it is the Arab revolt that has been sweeping the Middle East and North Africa since December.
Many have dubbed the popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia the Facebook revolution. Indeed, in Syria social media and mobile telephony play a key role in circumventing news blackouts and censorship to get news of the brutal crackdown by the government of President Bashar al Assad to the outside world.
Yet, despite the perception of many, it is not technology that is sparking the revolts. No doubt technology helps, facilitates and accelerates the speed and breadth of communication. New technology and social media impact politics, social movements, communications and flow of news. But the question one has to ask on…

Jordanian Prince Ali calls for government support of soccer to confront extremism

By James M. Dorsey
Jordanian Prince Ali bin al Hussein, half-brother of King Abdullah, has called on Jordan and other governments to increase support for sports in general and soccer in particular in a bid to build community resilience against extremism.
Prince Ali, a vice president of world soccer body FIFA and head of the West Asian and Jordanian soccer associations, issued his call in a video-taped address to the International Community Engagement Conference in Singapore organised by the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.
The prince's remarks came amid a wave of mass anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa in which militant soccer fans have played key roles. The protests have already toppled the autocratic leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and. Libya, left the embattled presidents of Syria and Yemen tottering on the brink of demise and prompted the monarchs of Morocco and Jordan to accelerate their plans for political and economi…

JMD in IHT: Social media send governments an urgent and important message

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FIFA forces Syrian Football Association elections

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By James M. Dorsey
World soccer body FIFA has appointed a committee to organize new Syrian Football Association (SFA) elections following the resignation of the group’s board and last month’s banning of the country’s national team from competing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
The committee has been tasked with organizing the elections by December 11. None of the SFA members that are part of the committee are entitled to stand in the election. The SFA board resigned after taking responsibility for the banning of the Syrian national team for fielding an ineligible player in two World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan. The Syrian Olympic Committee accepted the board’s resignation.
Syria coach Nizar Mahrous quit after his team was disqualified. “Ihave lost the will and power to work after all that has happened. All the efforts we did have been wasted,” Mr Mahrous was quoted by the Syrian press as saying.
The boards of both the SFA and the Olympic Committee are largely popu…

Palestinian vote puts US credibility at stake

Published on Sep 21, 2011 · ·By James M. Dorsey, For The Straits Times
THE Palestinian Authority is preparing to confront Israel's main ally, the United States, in the United Nations Security Council in a battle of wills over recognition of the Palestine state. This impending diplomatic clash will significantly undermine Washington's ability to protect its friend and could weaken its alliances in the Arab world. A decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to request the Security Council rather than the UN General Assembly to recognise Palestinian statehood is designed to force the US to make good on its pledge to veto the resolution. The veto will significantly undermine US credibility and call into question President Barack Obama's support for the creation of a Palestinian state with borders based on the boundaries of Israel prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, in which it conquered the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Mr Obama has vowed to block UN recognition o…