Showing posts from 2012

Ground-breaking election of Saudi soccer chief masks Arab revolt fears

  By James M. Dorsey The recent election of former soccer player Ahmed Eid Alharbi as the first freely chosen head of the Saudi Football Federation (SFF) in a country that views polling as an alien Western concept masks regional fears of the impact of popular revolts that have swept the Middle East and North Africa. It also constitutes the first time that autocratic rulers have sought to reduce their identification with soccer in a break with a tradition that employs the beautiful game in a bid to polish their tarnished images. “Words such as freedom of choice, equality, human rights, rational thinking, democracy and elections, are terms we came to view with high concern and suspicion. We treat them as alien ideas that are trying to sneak within our society from the outside world. But last week an amazing and irregular event took place, in one of our sporting landmarks. The members of the General Assembly of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) have elected through po

Syria bags Pyrrhus victory on the soccer pitch

Syrian support their national team's victory  By James M. Dorsey Supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad portrayed this weekend’s winning of the West Asian soccer championship by defeating Iraq as a unifying, national achievement against all odds. Yet, Syria’s success 22 months into an increasingly brutal civil war hardly constitutes the equivalent of Iraq’s winning of the Asian Cup in 2007 at the peak of that country’s sectarian violence. The Syrian national team, unlike its Iraqi counterpart five years ago, is moreover incapable of offering Syrians any hope of an end to the bloodshed and greater unity. "I give this win and this worthy title to the Syrian people. I thank God that we succeeded in bringing happiness to the sad people," said Syrian striker Omar Al Soma in a televised interview after the match. Syrian state-run television, responding to news reports of a power cut in Damascus, charged that "even football has not escaped the bloodt

Pitched Battles: The Role of Ultra Soccer Fans in the Arab Spring

      PITCH E D B ATTLES: THE ROLE OF ULTRA SOCCER FANS I N TH E A R A B SP R I N G *       Jam e s M. Dor s e y †       For deca d e s soccer has constit u ted an alterna t i ve pu b lic space in t h e Mid d le E ast. Largely unnoti c ed by in t e rnational ex pe rts, soccer pro v ided a ven u e f o r the e x pression of pe n t-up ang e r a n d frus t r ati o n a g ai n s t auth o rit a ri a nism . B y th e tim e th e Ar a b re v o l t erupt e d i n December 201 0 , soccer had e merged as a key nonreligiou s , nongovernment a l institu t ion capable of conf r onting repressive regimes. Now h ere was this more pronounced t h an in Egypt, where mil i tant, polit i cize d , o f ten vio l ent u lt r as—organized clubs of soccer fans—played a k ey role in the protests that fo r ced President Hosni Mubarak to r e sign in February 2 011. Since his resignation , E g yptia n u ltra s hav e co n tin u e d t o pla y a