The Mideast and Abroad
- Published on Sunday, 19 May 2013 12:04
Algeria is competing to be the next Arab nation to witness a popular revolt. That is assuming soccer is a barometer of rising discontent in a region experiencing a wave of mass protests that have already toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and sparked civil war in Syria.
In fact, there is increasingly little doubt that soccer, a historic nucleus of protest in Algeria, is signaling that popular discontent could again spill into the streets of Algiers and other major cities. Two years ago, protesters inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia, ultimately pulled back from the brink despite the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Now, in circumstances similar to Saudi Arabia, protests are mounting amid uncertainty about the future as Algeria’s aging leadership struggles with a series of natural deaths and the effects of health problems among its remaining key members.
- Published on Saturday, 11 May 2013 10:21
The resurrection of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) by the United States, which was initially introduced by the Arab League in Beirut, Lebanon in 2002, is a strategic and timely move. Sadly, however, the API should have all along been the basis for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
This is not deep insight; the Israelis and the Palestinians could have forged a bilateral agreement had Israel accepted the API as the framework of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. Israel’s national security concerns (real and imagined) could have dramatically been allayed had the Arab states- and by extension all Muslim countries- been at peace with Israel. By rejecting the API, successive Israeli governments have made a mistake of historic proportions.
- Published on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:00
World soccer body FIFA’s newly established anti-racism committee has its work cut out for it in the Middle East and North Africa where ironically only Israel and Iran have taken some, albeit too few, steps to counter discrimination based on color, religion, ethnicity or sex.
In countering racism and discrimination in the Middle East, FIFA faces not only racist outbursts by fans, players and officials on the pitch but often a structure and unwritten policies that are inherently discriminatory.
In the latest incident of racism, Iran’s soccer federation this month banned Paykan FC coach Firouz Karimi for eight games and fined him $3,000 for calling Dutch player of African descent Sendley Sidney Bito a cannibal and a Negro and refusing to shake his hand.
- Published on Sunday, 05 May 2013 00:00
A Singapore-based sports marketing company is at the center of a battle for the future of reform within world soccer days after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), wracked by two years of scandal over ousted president Mohammed Bin Hammam’s management of the group, elected a new head to complete his term.
The newly elected president, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Football Association, has little time to implement promised reforms aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability and good governance within the AFC. With less than two years before regularly scheduled presidential elections, Sheikh Salman has inherited an organization that has yet to prove its commitment to change.
- Published on Thursday, 02 May 2013 20:24
Soccer is defeating efforts by wealthy, football-crazy Gulf states to impregnate themselves against the wave of protests that have swept the Middle East and North Africa in the past two years and sparked a brutal civil war in Syria.
Once a prince’s uncontested playing ground that allowed royals to curry favor, strengthen their families grip on power and ensure that the soccer pitch did not become a platform for social and political protest, the beautiful game is emerging as the one arena that so far has proven immune to efforts by Gulf rulers to keep demands for change at bay.
In fact, fans are voting with their feet. Not in mass protests as those that toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, but by staying away from matches. What effectively amounts to a fan boycott, is most evident in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the one Gulf state that boasts nationals as a majority of its citizens who in the past filled stadiums. At a recent match in a dilapidated stadium in Doha, barely a hundred people showed up to watch.
- Published on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 11:53
Employment-related complaints by two international players, one of whom is barred from leaving Qatar, threaten to overshadow the 2022 World Cup organizing committee’s release of a charter of worker’s rights designed to fend off criticism of labor conditions in the Gulf state.
In separate interviews French-Algerian player Zahir Belounis, who is locked into a salary dispute with Al Jaish SC, the club owned by the Qatari military, and Moroccan international Abdessalam Ouadoo, who left Qatar last November to join AS Nancy-Lorraine, complained about failure to honor their contracts and pay their salaries as well as ill treatment.
- Published on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 00:01
A critical impediment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the complete distrust between the two sides. What makes the conflict even more intractable is that neither side is convinced that distrusting the other can be mitigated given the history of the conflict, their seemingly opposing goals, and their day-to-day experiences. And, all of it is reinforced by the constant mutual maligning through their public narratives.
This leads to an ever-diminishing prospect for reconciliation, driving both sides to resort to a zero-sum negotiating posture. Thus, distrust becomes further ingrained intellectually and emotionally, creating a vicious cycle which defies reason and- arguably- reality.
- Published on Monday, 29 April 2013 00:30
President Obama just concluded his first visit to the Middle East since he was reelected. This visit comes right after the newly appointed Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.
In advance of Obama’s visit, the United States Embassy in Israel invited students from different Israeli universities to attend a speech by Obama. In doing so, the U.S. President demonstrated that his vision is in line with how the world has evolved. Politics and diplomacy are no longer exclusively in the hands of politicians and diplomats but have a new participant: global youth. Young people- who interact with each other through vast social media tools and networks, who attend universities and are informed about the world and events around them- are now asking to be active participants and play a role in shaping the policies of their governments. They have shown their muscle by demonstrating, protesting, tweeting, blogging and creating videos. It was this sector of Israeli society that Obama wanted to address.
- Published on Friday, 26 April 2013 00:00
Next week’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidential elections designed to elect a leader to clean up two years of alleged financial mismanagement and unethical business conduct and polish the group’s tarnished image are increasingly marred by doubts that real reform is on the horizon, allegations of interference in the poll and controversy over the candidates’ track record.
The marring comes against a background of the AFC’s failure, despite efforts by reformers, to project sincerity in achieving transparency and accountability after its president, Qatari national Mohammed Bin Hammam, was banned for life from involvement in soccer because of unethical conduct in his management of the group’s finances and business affairs.