Showing posts from July, 2015

Qatar’s quagmire: existential fears and missed opportunities

By James M. Dorsey Walking around Qatar’s monumental Aspire Dome sports academy, coach Fred Engh noticed kids playing soccer on an indoor field big enough to accommodate four teams simultaneously during a break in an annual gathering of hundreds of sports leaders designed to project the Gulf state as an innovative, socially responsible global sports hub. Mr. Engh’s initial impression that the government was catering to the whole of its population, a majority of whom are poorly paid migrant workers whose restrictive labour and working conditions have become a focal point of criticism since Qatar won the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup were however quickly dashed. “It looked great and I was happy to see that the Qatar people cared enough to allow kids to come in and play in this magnificent facility. I was wrong. Not every local kid was allowed. It was open to only those that had money,” Mr. Engh said in a recent Huffington Post column . Chatting with a grou

AMarriage on the Rocks? Saudis Look Beyond U.S. After Iran Deal (JMD quoted on Bloomberg)

AMarriage on the Rocks? Saudis Look Beyond U.S. After Iran Deal by  Glen Carey July 30, 2015 — 7:01 AM SGT Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Former Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal once compared the bond with the U.S. to a “Muslim marriage,” or one that wasn’t necessarily monogamous. The kingdom’s recent overtures to other partners suggest the relationship is going through another reappraisal because of the landmark accord with regional rival Iran. After visiting Russia and France last month, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman returned home with $23 billion of aircraft and energy contracts. “Trust between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. has been damaged by the Iran nuclear deal,” said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington. “Many in Saudi Arabia feel abandoned by the U.S.” The U.S., the world’s largest arms supplier, and China each accounted for about 13 percent of Saudi trade last year They have hit the

The Cairo derby: Politics vs. repression

By James M. Dorsey This month’s premier league final between Cairo’s two storied clubs, Al Ahli SC and Al Zamalek SC, once the world’s most violent derby, was more than a clash between two soccer giants. It was a clash between management styles and diametrically opposed approaches towards militant, highly politicized, street battle-hardened soccer fans. The clash highlighted the advantages of engagement as opposed to the risk of radicalization and escalating political violence. On the pitch like on the streets and university campuses of Egypt, Zamalek’s emergence as this year’s Egyptian champion despite Ahli having won the derby itself would seem to legitimize the club’s aggressive effort to criminalize its fan base. The facts on the ground, however, suggest that Al Ahli’s engagement with its supporters has produced far better results, including greater cooperation with a group that like its Zamalek counterpart played a key role in the toppling in 2011 of President

‘Sports bodies must be monitored to end corruption’ (JMD in Today)

‘Sports bodies must be monitored to end corruption’ The Swiss authorities launched an investigation into FIFA’s awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Photo: Getty Images Monies meant for distribution should be kept withindependent agency, says award-winning journalist mail print View all  comments Tweet BY IAN DE COTTA PUBLISHED:  4:16 AM, JULY 18, 2015 UPDATED:  5:30 AM, JULY 18, 2015 (PAGE 1 OF 1) -  PAGINATE SINGAPORE — Getting rid of the patronage system and having independent bodies that monitor the monies global sports groups collect can stop the scourge of corruption that has plagued many sports organisations, including football’s world governing body FIFA, said award-winning investigative journalist James Dorsey. These two fundamental reforms are needed, he said, for the billions of dollars governing bodies earned through channels like international te

Israeli soccer violence moves racism up the government’s agenda

By James M. Dorsey A violent display of racism by extreme nationalist supporters of storied Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem coupled with recent Ethiopian Israeli protests against discrimination and the government’s handling of the capture of two Israelis by Hamas has moved racist attitudes towards dark-skinned Jews and Israeli Palestinian up the government’s agenda. Driving calls for the banning of La Familia, the racist anti-Arab, anti-Muslim fan group of Beitar is concern about damage the group did to Israel’s image abroad rather than a worrisome trend in society at a time that Israel is anxious about the gathering momentum of calls to boycott, disinvest from and sanction the Jewish state for its policy towards the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli foreign ministry officials charged that an incident in Belgium in which Beitar fans waved flags of the outlawed racist Kach party founded by assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and threw flares and smoke guns on to the pitc

Anti-Chinese Protests in Turkey: Relations with China Under Test

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim.  No. 153/2015 dated 15 July 2015 Anti-Chinese Protests in Turkey: Relations with China Under Test By James M. Dorsey Synopsis Protests in Turkey against alleged repression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have put China’s sensitive relationships with the Muslim world to the test. The protests raise the spectre of China’s restrictive policy towards the Uighurs muddying relations with other Muslim nations as well. C

More Corrupt Than FIFA: A Brief History of Syrian Football

By Omar Ibrahim [1] On December 30, 2012, the Syrian national soccer team was received by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his People’s Palace, an exquisite fortress overlooking the Syrian capital from Mt. Mezzeh. The president congratulated the team for its first-time winning of the West Asian Football Federation Championship, [1] and rewarded each player with an apartment, a job, and SYP150,000 (USD1500). [2] Among the red-clad players who queued up to shake Assad’s hand was 31-year-old Mosab Balhous, [3] the national team’s goalkeeper and former goalkeeper of Homs-based Al-Karamah SC. Their smiling exchange put a good face on a harsher history: 17 months earlier, on August 2, 2011, the president’s security forces had arrested Balhous on charges of sheltering armed gangs and possessing suspicious amounts of money. [4] The goalkeeper’s home city of Homs, popularly dubbed the “Capital of the revolution”, has been under regime attack since April 2011, and its Bab