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Showing posts from December, 2011

Lebanese soccer unites (briefly) deeply divided nation

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Defender Ali al-Saadi celebrates goal against South Korea (Source: FIFA.com)
By James M. Dorsey
In a country where almost every facet of life is defined by its sectarian fault lines, soccer is at least temporarily performing where politicians and religious figures have failed: rallying a divided country scarred by years of bitter civil war around a symbol of national unity. Soccer’s achievement stems from its defeat of South Korea in a 2014 World Cup qualifier. 
It took a first goal from defender Ali al-Saadi to convince the 60,000 fans in Beirut’s Cite Sportive stadium to shift from sectarian chants to egging on their team with roars of "Minshan Allah, Libnan yallah'' - "For God's Sake, Lebanon Come On'' – to historic 2-1 win over their favoured Asian opponents.
Tens of thousands of fans poured into the streets of the Lebanese capital waving the country's red and white flags with a green cedar in the middle. Traffic came to a halt and for a moment sectar…

French women groups protest FIFA decision to endorse hijab

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Iran imposes full Islamic garb on women players (Source: Xinhua)
By James M. Dorsey
Three French women’s organizations have expressed concern and disappointment with world soccer body FIFA’s endorsement of a proposal to lift the ban on women players wearing a hijab, an Islamic hair dress, on the pitch.
“To accept a special dress code for women athletes not only introduces discrimination among athletes but is contrary to the rules governing sport movement, setting a same dress code for all athletes without regard to origin or belief,” the three organizations said in an open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Anne Sugier, president of the League of International Women’s Rights (LDIF) founded by Simone de Beauvoire, said in an email that she had sent the letter together with the heads of FEMIX’SPORTS and the French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby, following publication on December 19 of the FIFA executive committee decision in The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
FIFA en…

Protest is proving beneficial to North African soccer performance

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(Source Matthew Barrett, FootballSpeak.com)
By James M. Dorsey
Protest is good for soccer. It enhances performance despite the hardship of civil strife according to an analysis of the performance of six North African national soccer teams before and after pro-longed mass protests that demanded regime change in their countries.
Matthew Barrett, a sports sponsorship professional, concluded in an analysis published on FootballSpeak.com that Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Morocco and Algeria, five nations that experienced political upheaval in 2011, had performed significantly better in terms of average points per match following the protests or in Sudan’s case, the cessation of South Sudan, compared to 2010, the year before the unrest. Egypt, , which won the African Cup three times in row, but failed to qualify for the 2012 finals was the exception that confirmed the rule.
The six national teams, Mr. Barrett, calculated, played 53 matches since the series of Arab uprisings erupted in Tunisia a year …

Libyans have sporting chance (JMD Quoted)

Libyans have sporting chanceDec 23, 2011 | Sapa-AP TRIPOLI - Athletes and sports programmes in Libya were woefully neglected during Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade rule. With Gadhafi's regime toppled last month, Libya's athletes and sports officials are hoping for a better future.
Oil-rich Libya has never won an Olympic medal and ranks near the bottom in sports competition with other Mediterranean countries that had far fewer resources, including neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.
"Sport, as a social activity, must be for the masses," Gadhafi said in his treatise, The Green Book. "It is mere stupidity to leave its benefits to certain individuals and teams who monopolise them while the masses provide the facilities and pay the expenses for the establishment of public sports."
Nabil Eleman, president of Libya's Olympic committee, said he's expecting the country's new leaders, among them National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a forme…

Tahrir and Change Squares: Two Models of Subverted Revolts

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RSIS presents the following commentary Tahrir and Change Squares:
Two Models of Subverted Revolts by James M. Dorsey. It is also
available online at this link.
(To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or
feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at
RSISPublication@ntu.edu.sg No. 187/2011 dated 22 December 2011
Tahrir and Change Squares:  Two Models of Subverted Revolts
By James M. Dorsey Synopsis
Continuing demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Sanaa’s Change Square  represent the protracted struggle for power in the Middle East-North Africa region:  one against the dominant military, the other against the reincarnated regime of an  ousted president. Both also show how Saudi-led efforts to support Egypt’s  military-led regime and Yemen’s newly appointed government have deprived  protesters of the fruits of their revolt.  Commentary
THE POPULAR revolts in Egypt and Yemen have been put on the defensive by  a combination of Islamist electo…

Football Seeks Fans (JMD Quoted in Asia 360)

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Football Seeks Fans Chelsea star Didier Drogba surrounded by fans upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur this July as part of Chelsea’s preseason tour of Asia. Images: Mohd Rasfan/AFP FIFA Club World Cup fails to get Asians excited about Asian football The Manchester United bumper stickers, Real Madrid t-shirts and Liverpool hats that abound on the streets of Jakarta, Mumbai and Beijing illustrate how much Asia loves football. But it is a love that is seemingly reserved only for overseas teams. Local leagues simply do not generate the excitement that the big foreign football leagues do. Given this, when two Asian clubs reached the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan this week, most football fans in the region were more focused on Barcelona (Spain) and Santos (Brazil), the other two clubs left in the tournament. The FIFA Club World Cup, held annually since 2005, includes representatives from each of FIFA’s six continental football confederations and one local club. The tournament’s global…

Striker Mohammed Ghadir puts Israeli anti-racism to the test

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Taking Beitar to task: Mohammed Ghadir (Source: UEFA)
By James M. Dorsey
Maccabi Haifa striker Mohammed Ghadir believes that he and Beitar Jerusalem, the bad boy of Israeli soccer, are a perfect match.
"I am well suited to Beitar, and that team would fit me like a glove. I have no qualms about moving to play for them," Mr. Ghadir is quoted by Israeli daily Ha’aretz as saying. Beitar has a large squad, a significant fan base, wide media coverge and lacks talented strikers, he says.
There is only one hitch: Beitar doesn’t want Mr. Ghadir. Not because he’s not an upcoming star and not because they wouldn’t need a player like Mr. Ghadir but because the striker is an Israeli Palestinian. "Our team and our fans are still not ready for an Arab soccer player," Ha’aretz quotes Beitar’s management as saying. The club prides itself on being the only top league Israeli club to have never hired a Palestinian player in a country whose population is for 20 per cent Palestinian and in…

FIFA endorsement of Hijab proposal may end dispute with Iran and Muslim women

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Iranian women's team: disqualified for wearing the hijab
By James M. Dorsey
World soccer body FIFA has endorsed a proposal to lift a controversial ban on women wearing a hijab in a move that brings closer a resolution to demands by religious female Islamic soccer players that they be allowed to wear a headdress in line with their interpretation of their faith.
At its executive committee meeting in Tokyo this weekend, FIFA decided to submit to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which governs the rules of association soccer, the proposal put forward by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a half-brother of Jordanian King Abdullah.
IFAB is expected to discuss the proposal that calls for the sanctioning of a safe, velcro-opening headscarf for players and officials at its next scheduled meeting  on March 3.
The FIFA executive committee’s endorsement follows an earlier approval of the AFC proposal that resulted from a workshop conven…

Anti-Syrian soccer protests in Iran position Azeris as potential pawn in Syrian strife

By James M. Dorsey

Stadiums in the northwestern city of Tabriz, capital of Iran’s predominantly Azeri minority, have emerged as a platform for protest against Iranian government policies and demands for greater rights for the country’s Turkic minority.
In the latest protest, supporters of Tabriz’s Traktorsazi Tabriz Football club, a flashpoint of East Azerbaijan Provinces’s identity politics owned by state-run Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMCO), unfurled Azeri nationalist banners and burnt images of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sahand Stadium during a Pro League match against Mes of Sarcheshmeh.
The embattled Syrian leader is Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world and alongside Russia his most important supporter despite Iranian and Russian calls on Mr. Assad to find a negotiated solution to his country’s eight-month old crisis. Protesters have displayed remarkable perseverance with almost daily protests against Mr. Assad’s regime in the face of a brutal military crackdown…