Under Bahrain dictatorship, sport suffers

This video on soccer is called Bahrain 1-0 Japan: Ala’a Hubails Goal!!!

From Associated Press:

Few cheer Bahrain at Gulf Games after crackdown

Oct 21, 2011 1:44pm

MANAMA, Bahrain — The long-delayed Gulf Cooperation Council Games, billed as a shop window for regional athletes, are coming to an end in violence-wracked Bahrain after 12 days of competition in near-empty stadiums and criticism that the government is throwing a party while clashes continue between protesters and security forces.

While the GCC Games are a local affair, its low-wattage reception is likely to be noticed by organizers and sponsors of major events with links to the country — including the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix that was canceled this year because of the unrest.

More than 1,000 athletes from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council have competed for 12 days in 10 sports at the games, which wrap up Saturday.

The games had elements of a high-profile competition — including an endearing mascot and an ear-catching slogan. But some of the brand new venues for volleyball, basketball, swimming and football were virtually empty of spectators — an indication that few in Bahrain are in the mood to cheer their national teams and competitors after months of protests for greater rights by the country’s Shiite majority and sweeping crackdowns by the Sunni minority rulers.

Hundreds of opposition supporters — including more than 150 athletes — have been detained and tried for crimes against the state since the uprising in Bahrain started in February. At least 35 people have been killed in the revolt that was inspired by other Arab uprisings.

“It’s shameful to have any games in this sad atmosphere,” said Fatima Ali, a 28-year-old opposition supporter and a mother of two. Ali is among thousands of Bahrain’s Shiites who lost their jobs for participating in protests earlier this year. “I love sports, but the government is using it to say to the world that our revolution for freedom is over.”

Bahrain’s rulers are eager to show the country is back to normal and ready to welcome foreign investors to revive the battered economy. Formula One has already agreed to return to the Gulf kingdom in 2012, and 1,500 athletes from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have competed under the politically charged slogan of “Bahrain 11: One Gulf, One Goal.”

The organizers made no apologies for mixing sports with politics at the games, staged just a few months after Bahrain imposed martial law and invited a Gulf military force from neighboring states to help quell dissent.

Sunni rulers across the Gulf fear that any compromise to Bahrain’s Shiites by the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty would strengthen the influence of the region’s Shiite powerhouse, Iran.

On Thursday, the country’s National Stadium was far from full when Bahrain’s national team that has been purged of several Shiite players during the crackdown played the UAE in semifinals. At other events, the only spectators at matches that did not include Bahraini athletes were often bored security guards, who at times seemed more entertained by the acrobatics of the event’s mascot, called Ghalib, which is Arabic for Victory.

In addition to the gold in handball, Bahrain also won titles in the half-marathon, 10,000 meters, bowling and cycling as well as in the table tennis, the only event featuring women.

“I don’t care if the national teams win or lose,” said Jassim, a 22-year-old student, who only gave his first name for fear of harassment by the authorities. “All I care about is for discrimination to stop. I want justice and equal rights for all in my country.”

The sporting community in Bahrain has been heavily punished for taking part in the anti-government protests. More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees were jailed and dozens are awaiting trial, according to Bahrain’s human rights activists.

Among the most famous athletes jailed for protesting were football players Alaa and Mohammed Hubail. The brothers were barred from playing on the national team and blacklisted from the local league. In June, Mohammed was convicted in the special security court and sentenced to two years in prison.

Bahrain: Inside an Opposition Gathering on the “Path to Democracy”: here.

Bahrain: Medics Describe Torture in Detention: here.

6 thoughts on “Under Bahrain dictatorship, sport suffers

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