Lapwings stop Brazilian football match

This 12 November video is about a flock of birds, invading a football pitch in Brazil, stopping the match.

This was an under-20 Copa do Brasil game between São Paulo and Joinville.

The birds were southern lapwings.

Bahrain, dictatorship and football news update

This video says about itself:

Cameraman Films, Bahrain Police Shoot Him In Body With Gas Canister

19 May 2012

An activist demanding reform of the absolute Bahrain monarchy is shot directly while he raises his camera to film the brutal police who are cracking down against the popular uprising. The Bahrain monarchy appears to finally realise that its days are over, and has essentially given up most of its sovereignty to become a province of neighbouring Saudi Arabia in a new union between the two states.

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called for the immediate release of Sheikh Ali Salman and Ebrahim Sharif, two of Bahrain’s most prominent peaceful political opposition leaders. Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main peaceful opposition group Al Wefaq, is appealing a conviction on political charges. Sharif, a leader of the opposition group Waad, is currently on trial in Bahrain for comments made during a speech calling for reform. Their next hearings are both scheduled for Thursday, November 12: here.

From the New York Times in the USA today:

FIFA Ethics Review Clears 5 Candidates to Succeed Sepp Blatter


ZURICH — Five of the seven men hoping to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, have passed an internal ethics review and have been formally cleared to run in a February election, the group’s electoral committee announced on Thursday. …

The seventh candidate, Michel Platini of France, the head of the European confederation UEFA, submitted paperwork to enter the race on Oct. 8, only hours before he was provisionally suspended by FIFA amid a corruption investigation by the Swiss authorities.

The chairman of the electoral committee, Domenico Scala, has said he will not consider the candidacy of Mr. Platini, who was once regarded as the favorite to replace Mr. Blatter, or perform an ethics review of him until the suspension is lifted. …

But the announcement regarding the remaining five candidates was also not without controversy.

The organization approved Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, president of the Asian soccer confederation and a member of Bahrain’s royal family. Rights activists have accused him of playing a part in the jailing and torture of soccer players from Bahrain who peacefully demonstrated against his family’s rule during the Arab Spring in 2011. …

Rights advocates have held firm. “If FIFA has any hope to move past corruption and scandal, it must begin by disqualifying Sheikh Salman from the presidential race,” Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, said in an email. …

The activists specifically charged that Sheikh Salman had led a committee that studied pictures of pro-democracy demonstrations and identified athletes who had participated in them. At least three soccer players, the groups said, were later detained and tortured; upon their release, they were exiled from the Bahrain national team.

“Everything we have presented, from the testimonies of tortured soccer players to the Bahrain Football Association statements, are already on the public record,” Mr. Abdulla wrote in the email. “The crackdown is an incontestable fact.”

THE Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) slammed Fifa yesterday for adding a “human rights abuser to their profile” after Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa passed their presidential candidacy integrity check. Khalifa has been accused of being complicit in the detention of footballers and other athletes while head of the Bahrain Football Association: here.

FIFA Ethics Court Bans Former President Sepp Blatter For 8 Years. Michel Platini, who aimed to succeed Blatter as the new president, was also banned: here.

Bahrain dictatorship and football update

This video says about itself:

E:60 – Taken / Athletes of Bahrain

8 November 2011

Produced by Yaron Deskalo of ESPN. Filmed and Edited by Evolve Digital Cinema.

What if a country’s biggest athlete, a legend, a hero, a player who brought the nation some of its biggest sporting moments, was at practice one day and was suddenly taken into custody by masked men? What if he was held for months, tortured, his career ended, banned from his team and for playing for his country, all because he expressed his political views? It’s not a storyline from a Hollywood script — that is what allegedly happened in Bahrain.

Specifically, it’s what Alaa Hubail says happened to him. Hubail is the most famous soccer player in Bahrain and says similar treatment was forced on his brother, Mohammad, also a member of Bahrain’s national soccer team; and to Anwar Al-Makki, Bahrain’s internationally ranked table-tennis champion. In a story largely ignored by the Western world, these athletes describe in detail the horrific torture they endured at the hands of their government — a government that is allied with the United States despite allegations of human rights abuses against pro-democracy protestors. E:60 goes to the Middle East for the first time to investigate how athletes were caught up in the clash of democracy, freedom, repression and politics. Jeremy Schaap reports.

From the Human Rights First site in the USA:

October 28, 2015

Bahraini Sheikh and FIFA Presidential Hopeful Continues to Dodge Allegations over Targeting Athletes

By Brian Dooley

FIFA Presidential hopeful Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of the Bahrain ruling family has failed to adequately answer questions about his part in the violent crackdown against pro-democracy protests in 2011. In a BBC interview last night, he dismissed the reports as “nasty lies” that he was involved in identifying footballers and other athletes who were targeted – and some jailed – during 2011.

Associated Press estimated that more than 150 athletes, coaches, and referees were targeted, and some jailed for their perceived part in the protests. There are several major issues he has failed to answer in connection to what happened four years ago:

First, it’s not clear if he is denying involvement in what happened or if he’s disputing that the targeting and jailing of athletes happened at all by the Bahraini government, which is headed by his family. There are numerous press reports that athletes were jailed, and their targeting was reported in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a body set up by the Bahrain government itself to investigate what happened in early 2011. Is Sheikh Al Khalifa denying these things happened, or that he had no part in them?

Second, his response to his role in identifying those to be targeted is rhetorical and inadequate “[did] I need to get involved in this?” There has so far been no satisfying response to The Guardian‘s discovery a few days ago revealing that he was named in an official April 2011 media statement by Bahrain’s state news agency as the lead investigator on an official committee investigating the athletes who had joined the protests. Is Sheikh Al Khalifa denying he was part of this committee?

Third, Sheikh Al Khalifa says he should be judged by those in football who know him. “Ask anyone in football about myself,” he suggests. Will Sheikh Al Khalifa allow foreign journalists into Bahrain to ask footballers and other targeted athletes what they think of him and what role, if any, they believe he played in their identification?

Sheikh Al Khalifa says he offers FIFA “fresh blood.” It’s an unfortunate phrase given the context, and he needs to explain far better than he has what role he played in the targeting of footballers and other athletes in 2011.

If Uefa had any moral backbone it would consider withdrawing from Fifa, by Marina Hyde. The only way these seven Fifa presidential candidates could be considered new brooms is if they were placed next to a recently unearthed fossilised sweeping implement believed to date back to the early Iron Age: here.

The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR) stated that the Bahraini child Ali Abdullah Isa (15 years old) was recently arrested in a raid on his father’s house in Zayed city in the early hours of the morning by members of civilian security forces and was taken to the juvenile detention center. BFHR added that he “was harshly beaten and tortured, despite his medical condition as he suffers from sickle cell anemia and was born with a punctured heart,” calling for his immediate release: here.

October 30, 2015, 05:00 pm. US must push for reform in Bahrain. By Brian Dooley: here.

Bahrain, torture and football update

This video is called Ebrahim Sharif‘s speech at the Annual Commemoration of Martyr Hussam Al Haddad, July 10, 2015.

In June Bahrain’s king pardoned opposition politician Ebrahim Sharif only to throw him back in jail three weeks later. His wife, Farida Ghulam, writes about the surreal nature of living with a lack of free expression.

By Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program:

FIFA, Man United, and Torture in Bahrain

10/27/2015 12:46 pm EDT

The 2011 targeting of footballers and other athletes in Bahrain following the pro-democracy protests there is threatening Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa’s bid for the FIFA presidency.

Al Khalifa of Bahrain’s ruling family has announced his candidacy for the post this week saying the job required “an experienced, competent and honest leadership capable of winning the confidence of the international football community.”

But then UK newspaper The Guardian uncovered what seems to be a smoking gun document linking him directly to the crackdown, suggesting he was a senior member of a special committee set up to identify athletes who took part in the demonstrations.

AP estimated that more than 150 athletes, coaches, and referees were targeted, and some jailed for their perceived part in the protests.

In May 2011 I was in Bahrain researching the crackdown and found other human rights violations related to football and specifically Manchester United.

I met the family of Ahmad Shams, a 15-year-old boy who was shot by the police, according to his family, while wearing a Man United shirt about six weeks before. He was playing football with his friends near his home in Sar on March 30, 2011, when his family says he was killed by security forces. Around 5:30 p.m. in a quiet area, two groups of security vehicles appeared, nine in all. When the boys playing saw them they ran, and the police started shooting rubber bullets at them.

They say Ahmed was hit by a “sound bomb” cartridge on the back of his head. He continued running, but was caught and beaten by the police. His father took him to a relative’s house and then to the American Mission hospital. While being examined by a doctor, his family says security troops came and took him to the main Salmaniya Hospital, where he died, still wearing a Manchester United shirt.

An international commission of inquiry into what happened during the crackdown on protestors ordered by the Bahraini government found that “No autopsy was conducted and no formal cause of death has been recorded,” and that “The MoI [Ministry of the Interior] has failed to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding this death.”

Ahmed’s bedroom wall had posters of Wayne Rooney and others of the 2010-2011 United team. In the weeks after his death, some people in Bahrain wrote to Man United ambitiously asking if they might hold a minute’s silence before one of their games in tribute to Ahmed. People sent emails to the Man United account making the request. One of them was Dr. Fatima Haji, a rheumatologist in Bahrain’s Salmaniya Medical Complex, and a Ryan Giggs fan.

With dozens of other medics, she was arrested after treating injured protestors and tortured in custody. But her interrogation was a bit different; she had written the email asking for the minute’s silence and then deleted it, knowing it might be incriminating. When she was arrested on April 17 her laptop was taken too, and a few days later — with tragic efficiency — Man United responded to her email, which her interrogators then saw.

“I was blindfolded and handcuffed with my hands behind my back, and beaten,” she told me. “A man asked me ‘What is your relationship with Alex Ferguson?’ I was shocked and figured out they’d gone through my emails. A female officer hit me on the head on both sides at the same time — she was wearing what I later found out was a special electrical band on her hands and she electrocuted me a couple of times — I felt a shock wave through my head. It was very painful and the whole world was spinning. I was beaten again on the head.”

Haji says she was questioned over and over again about her connection to Manchester United: “because they’d responded to my email the police thought I somehow knew someone at Manchester United.” She spent several weeks in custody and was tried with 19 other medics in a military court. She was sentenced to five years in prison and finally acquitted on appeal in June 2012. One of her co-accused, Dr. Ali Alekry, is still in prison.

Man United has run football camps in Bahrain since then, and the regime is proud of its links with major international sporting brands — it hosts an annual Formula 1 grand prix. Winning the FIFA presidency would be a major coup for the monarchy.

But opposition to Al Khalifa’s bid is growing. Guardian sportswriter Marina Hyde described Sheikh Al Khalifa as a “monstrous arsehole… whose ascent to football primacy has been a classic riches-to-riches story.” Even FIFA — known for its tolerance of corruption and an embarrassing leadership — must realize having Sheikh Al Khalifa in charge would damage its reputation beyond repair.

Torture claims hit Sheikh Salman’s bid for Fifa presidency: here.

Rights Groups Deplore Bahrain Royal’s Entry in Race to Lead FIFA: here.

Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman ‘headed committee targeting athletes in Bahrain protests’. Sheikh Salman named in document announcing setting up of committee: here.

Bahraini Sheikh Salman’s human rights record scrutinized ahead of FIFA election: here.

Bad news for Platini as his appeal against suspension is struck down: here.