Showing posts from May, 2014

FIFA braces for Israeli-Palestinian showdown

By James M. Dorsey
The scene is set at next month’s World Cup in Brazil for showdown between Israel and Palestine that will be off the pitch given that neither qualified for one of the world’s most important sporting events.
The looming battle in the congress in Sao Paolo of world soccer body FIFA reflects Palestinian efforts to isolate Israel internationally and undermine its legitimacy in the wake of the breakdown of stillborn peace negotiations as well as Israeli concern that growing opposition to its policy toward the Palestinians constitutes potentially as great a threat as Iran becoming a nuclear power.
The campaign by the Palestine Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas to gain recognition as a state by joining a multitude of United Nations organizations and pushing for condemnation of Israel if not suspension of Israeli membership includes an effort by the Palestine Football Federation (PFF) to sanction Israel for obstructing Palestinian soccer.
The effort to persu…

Protest and human rights shape debate on awarding of mega events

By James M. Dorsey
Mass protests against Brazil's hosting of the World Cup, Turkey's loss of opportunities to host sports events and controversy over 2022 World Cup host Qatar's labour system are impacting the global sports world's thinking about the requirements future hosts will have to meet. The impact is likely to go far beyond sporting and infrastructure concerns and raise the stakes for future hosts.
Qatar is under increasing pressure to overhaul its kafala or labour sponsorship system denounced by the United Nations and labour and human rights activists as violations of international human rights standards. 
The Gulf state potentially risks losing its hosting rights if it fails to demonstrate rigorous enforcement of existing rules and regulations and enact radical reforms.
The Qatar controversy illustrates the risk both potential hosts groups such as world soccer governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee shoulder with the awarding of tournamen…

Qatar misses the plank on labour reform

Qatari general announces labour reform By James M. Dorsey
A long awaited and much hyped announcement on a reform of 2022 World Cup host Qatar's controversial kafala or labour sponsorship system has sparked more questions than answers and cost‎ the Gulf state an opportunity to gain the upper hand in a bruising debate that has significantly tarnished its image.
Confusion over what the proposed reforms meant was such that Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer body FIFA, and Theo Zwanziger, the FIFA executive dealing with the Qatari labour issue cancelled a planned trip to the Gulf state. FIFA has come under severe criticism for failing to take harsh workers’ conditions into consideration when it awarded the World Cup to Qatar in December 2010.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that the reforms appeared to involve a refinement of the kafala system rather than an overall overhaul or abolition as the government claimed. It was further fuelled by the announcement that future labour c…

Lax FIFA policing of political interference in soccer focuses on Egypt

By James M. Dorsey
World soccer body FIFA has dispatched investigators to Egypt to probe allegations of government interference as the country prepares for potentially risky bids to host two international tournaments, the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup and the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup.
The FIFA investigation and the bids come against the background of a military coup that last year toppled Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president and a presidential election this month likely to effectively cement the military’s grip on the country, which is marred by a brutal crackdown on regime opponents and political freedoms in which more than 3,000 people have been killed, some 17,000 wounded and 19,000 detained.
The investigation focuses on the government’s forcing of elections in March of presidents of Egypt’s two foremost clubs, storied Cairo arch rivals Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC, whose militant supporters played a key role in the toppling three years ago of Presiden…

2022 World Cup emerges as engine of change


By James M. Dorsey
The 2022 World Cup is emerging as an engine of social and possible political reform in the Gulf, a region that is desperately trying to ring fence a simmering groundswell clamouring for change that has its roots in widespread social, economic and political discontent, toppled four Arab autocrats in recent years, and led to a brutal civil war in Syria.
Pressure by human rights and trade union activists as well as the United Nations on World Cup host Qatar, perhaps the most stable of the six wealthy, energy-rich Gulf states, to reform its restrictive labour system is proving to be a monkey wrench that is rippling throughout the region and could spark change that goes far beyond the rights and working and living conditions of migrant labour that account for a majority of the population in much of the region.
It is also sparking pressure on other states in the region. Prominent artists have called for a boycott of the Guggenheim museum being built on Abu Dhabi’s Sa…

Jail sentences re-position Egyptian soccer as potential protest venue

By James M. Dorsey
An Egyptian court has sentenced 12 militant soccer fans to five years in prison in an expansion of the military-backed regime’s crackdown on its Islamist and non-Islamists opponents that could ultimately re-position soccer as a major platform of protest.
The fans, members of Ultras Ahlawy, the well-organized and street battled-hardened militant support group of storied Cairo club Al Ahli SC that played a key role in the popular uprising three years ago that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and subsequent anti-military protests, were sentenced in absentia for organizing an  illegal gathering and vandalism.
The convicted were accused of blocking a Cairo road to protest the arrest of Ultras Ahlawy members who clashed with police last October as they attempted to storm Cairo airport’s international terminal.
The verdict came days after just retired General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the presidential candidate likely to win this month’s presidential election who last year ov…

Egypt's Sisi uncompromising in first TV appeal to voters (JMD quoted)

Egypt's Sisi uncompromising in first TV appeal to votersBy Jay Deshmuk and Tony Gamal-Gabriel4 hours ago

The battle for Taksim, a battle for Turkey’s soul

Carsi demonstrates in Besikats
By James M. Dorsey
Militant supporters of Istanbul’s top three soccer clubs added muscle to thousands of trade unionists, leftists and government opponents in May Day clashes with Turkish police in what has become a battle for control of the city’s iconic Taksim Square.
With 40,000 men on duty, 20,000 of which were stationed on and around Taksim, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent protesters from reaching the square. Clashes erupted in various parts of the city, including Besiktas, home to Carsi, the widely popular militant support group of Besiktas JK. Turkish media reports said 51 people were injured and 138 arrested.
The significance of Taksim to both the government and its critics was highlighted by the fact that the government banned May Day celebrations on the square on alleged national security grounds but assigned an area on the outskirts of the city where the unions and others would be allowed to mark Labour Day.
Taksim, Istanbu…