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Showing posts from April, 2014

UN fires shot across Qatar’s bow

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By James M. Dorsey
The United Nations’ senior official responsible for migrants, in a shot across Qatar’s bow as officials predict imminent far-reaching labour reforms,  has called on the Gulf state to abolish its controversial kafala or labour sponsorship system and enshrine its lofty promises in law.
The timing of the publication of UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants François Crepeau’s report on Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, suggests that the Gulf state’s trade union, human rights and UN critics are unlikely to accept anything less than the abolition of the kafala system that puts employees at the mercy of their employers.
Qatar, which has engaged with critics who demand that it be deprived of its right to host the tournament if it fails to adhere to international labour standards, has suggested that it will shortly announce radical reform of its controversial labour system. The reforms stop short of abolishing kafala but would transfer sponsorship from …

World Cup sparks change as soccer puts chink in Qatari segregation

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Workers Cup 201
By James M. Dorsey
Qatar is employing soccer to put a significant first chip in the Chinese wall that segregates its minority citizenry from its majority foreign labour and expatriate population.
The move that Qatari officials say is one of the undertakings they made in their successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup constitutes a first tentative step by a Gulf state towards some form of integration of non-nationals in a region largely populated by states in which citizens account for only a small percentage of the population.
The step breaks with a regional policy that was designed to give foreigners no illusion that their welcome was limited to the period of their contract and discouraged integration and inter-action with Qatari nationals to prevent them from sprouting roots.
For Qataris, it involves embarking on a risky and scary road that many recognize as necessary and unavoidable but nonetheless may unleash dynamics they no longer will be able to control and tha…

Qatar to cut ‘one third’ of World Cup stadiums (JMD quoted on Al Arabiya

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Qatar to cut ‘one third’ of World Cup stadiums Qatar originally planned 12 stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. (Photo courtesy: Qatar 2022 Bid Committee) Text size AAA By Ben Flanagan | Al Arabiya News, Dubai
Monday, 21 April 2014 Qatar is to slash the number of stadiums it builds for the 2022 World Cup, according to reports, with the local tournament organizer confirming the number of grounds is under review. The country originally set out plans for 12 football stadiums, including three refurbished grounds. But it has now cut that to eight, according to statements by Ghanim al-Kuwari, the organizing committee’s senior manager for projects, quoted by Bloomberg. Kuwari did not give a reason for the reduction, which comes at a time of rising costs and several controversies surrounding Qatar's hosting of the tournament. The Qatar World Cup committee confirmed to Al Arabiya News that the final selection of venues is still under review. “For Qatar, the process of selecting the final proposed li…

Workers’ Cup 2014 speeds to the finals (JMD quoted in Doha News)

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PHOTOS: Workers’ Cup 2014 speeds to the finals Posted: 20 Apr 2014 02:25 AM PDT

Syrian jihadists employ soccer as propaganda and recruitment tool

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By James M. Dorsey
Jihadists, often eager to exploit soccer for their ideological goals, have found a new way of employing the game for propaganda and recruitment purposes. A recent jihadist video suggested that an apparent Portuguese fighter in Syria was a former French international who had played for British premier league club Arsenal.
The video exploited the physical likeness of a masked jihadist fighter believed to be Celso Rodrigues Da Costa, to that of French international Lassana Diarra. Voice analysis suggested however that the man brandishing an AK-47 weapon in the clip was Mr. Da Costa, a Portuguese national who had lived in East London for some time and may have attended youth coaching sessions at Arsenal. Mr. Diarra played for Arsenal before moving to Lokomotiv Moscow.
Mr. Da Costa would be the third London-based Portuguese national to have joined the Syrian jihad.  Last October, Burak Karan, an up and coming German-Turkish soccer star, was killed during a Syrian milit…

Experts say Russia-Iran barter deal harmful (JMD quoted)

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Experts say Russia-Iran barter deal harmful 18 APRIL 2014, 12:32 (GMT+05:00) By Sara Rajabova Iran is in talks with Russia on bartering the Iranian oil with Russian goods, which has caused concerns of some countries, especially the United States. Negotiations on Russia-Iran barter deal came up while the West is angry with Russia over the events in Ukraine, and the six world powers and Iran are trying to bridge the gaps and prepare the final deal. Iran and Russia have been discussing various ways of increasing bilateral trade, including Moscow possibly taking up to 500,000 barrels a day of the Iranian oil in exchange for Russian goods needed by Iran. Washington said such a deal would go against the terms of the interim nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran, reached in Geneva in last November. In case Russia and Iran's barter deal happens, the U.S. senators have threatened to reinstate Iran sanctions that were eased under the Geneva deal. The senators said if Iran moves for…

Scandal-ridden Asian football body stymies reform efforts

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Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa vs Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein
By James M. Dorsey
Efforts to reform Asian soccer governance have stalled more than a year after FIFA ousted disgraced former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam in the sport’s worst corruption scandal that tainted multiple members of the executive committees of both the world soccer and the Asian soccer body.
Bahrain Football Association president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, elected last May to complete Mr. Bin Hammam’s curtailed tenure has yet to act on his electoral promise of far-reaching structural reform. Sheikh Salman was at the same time elected a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Sheikh Salman’s promise included acting on a devastating internal audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC). The audit served to unseat Mr. Bin Hammam on charges of conflict of interest.
“The audit’s purpose was to deal with Bin Hammam. It served its purpose. It’s been buried,” said a…

EURO 2020 set to polish Turkey’s tarnished image

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By James M. Dorsey
Turkey, eager to polish its image tarnished by a politicized match-fixing scandal, a massive corruption scandal, hard-handed police tactics against anti-government demonstrators and a bruising domestic power struggle, has emerged as a favourite to host  the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final.
"We think we will be awarded the two semi-finals and finals and we deserve it after bidding for the last three tournaments. It's high time we were successful and UEFA president Michel Platini has given that hint to us," Turkish Football Federation (TFF) vice-president Servet Yardimci told Inside World Football.
Brutal police tactics last June against anti-government demonstrators on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square protesting against plans to replace the square’s historic Gezi Park with a shopping mall cost Turkey the hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games that were awarded to Tokyo instead. Militant soccer fans played a key role in the protests, the largest in Prime Mini…

Erdogan chooses soccer for first-post election strike against Islamist opponents

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Hakan Sukur Stadium no more
By James M. Dorsey
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, fresh from a resounding victory in municipal elections has chosen the soccer pitch to make good on his promise to “enter the lair” of his Islamist rival, self-exiled preacher Fethullalh Gulen, and ensure that what he calls an “alliance of evil” is brought to account for alleged treason and creating a state within a state.
In a symbolic gesture, Mr. Erdogan called on Turkish soccer legend Hakan Sukur to resign from parliament after his nameplate was removed from an Istanbul’s Sancaktepe Hakan Sukur Stadium. Mr. Sukur represented Istanbul on behalf of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) until he resigned in protest again the government’s handling of a major corruption scandal.
Back in 2011, Mr. Erdogan, a former soccer player, recruited Mr. Sukur to boost his election campaign to become prime minister for a third term. The former player had support the prime minister’s effort a year…

Human rights violations raise spectre of Gulf soccer acquisitions as reputation laundering

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Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan
By James M. Dorsey
Reports about torture and abuse in the United Arab Emirates of British nationals, including a former bodyguard of the mother of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi whose half- brother was caught on video several years ago brutally torturing a business associate, raises the spectre of high profile Gulf acquisitions and sponsorships of European soccer clubs serving as a form of reputation laundering.
Noting that the Al Nahayan family, which rules the United Arab Emirates as well as Abu Dhabi, one of its seven emirates, owns Manchester City, the first of a number of high profile Gulf soccer acquisitions, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the British Foreign Office had documentary evidence of alleged torture of its nationals in Dubai Central Prison. The evidence was acquired during a visit by Foreign Office staff to British detainees held ion drugs charges.
The Brits include Hasnain Ali, a former bodyguard of Shaikha Fatima bin…