Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Politics, religion and soccer in Iraq

It would probably be an exaggeration to describe soccer as one of the world religions, but sometimes one has to wonder.

Since 2003 the jihadists of the so-called Sunni Arab "insurgency" (or, if one prefers, "resistance") have murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and they have shown no compunction about blowing up mosques, attacking religious pilgrims, and otherwise targeting religious gatherings to commit their massacres. On the other hand, as an article in today's New York Times points out, soccer matches seem to be sacrosanct:
Soccer is so beloved here that even Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which claims ties to Osama bin Laden’s group, has not dared to emulate Mr. bin Laden’s theologically based contempt for the game. Matches in Iraq are one of the few types of public gatherings that have never become a target for suicide bombers.
=> The article focuses on the latest troubles of the long-suffering Iraqi soccer team:
The International Federation of Association Football, known by its French acronym, FIFA, suspended Iraq’s soccer team on Friday, charging the government with interference in the affairs of the board that oversees the national team.
Judging from the information in the article, there appear to be good grounds for this action. However, I can't help reflecting that back during the Ba'ath regime, when Iraqi soccer was under the direct control of Saddam Hussein's murderous and psychopathic son Uday--who, among other things, used to have players beaten or tortured when they lost--no one at FIFA seemed to think this was a problem.

--Jeff Weintraub