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Reshaping the Middle East: UAE leads the counterrevolution

By James M. Dorsey War planes from oil-rich Gulf states play a supporting role in the US-led air campaign to counter the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Despite their massive weapons acquisitions in recent years the Gulf states’ participation may make little military difference in the war against the jihadists, but it serves everyone’s …

Daily News Egypt

Women’s sporting rights put Saudi Arabia and Iran on the defensive

By James M. Dorsey The struggle for women’s rights to engage in and attend sport events has commanded increased attention with the hunger strike of a British-Iranian national incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, the expected arrival in Saudi Arabia of Australian women fans for the Asian Champions League final, and the rare appearance of …

Daily News Egypt

Israel mobilises to deprive Qatar of the World Cup

By James M. Dorsey One group has been conspicuously absent in the battle for greater transparency of global football governance symbolised by multiple corruption scandals and match-fixing: football fans, a key stakeholder with a vested interest in demanding a thorough cleansing of the management of the sport. That, however, may be changing as Israel appears …

Daily News Egypt

Fighting the Islamic State: What about the day after?

By James M. Dorsey The beheading of a second American journalist and the likely execution of a British national have left  US President Barak Obama and other Western leaders few options but to step up military operations against Islamist jihadists in Iraq and expand the battle into Syria. The focus on confronting the militant jihadists …

Daily News Egypt

Islamic State: an ideological challenge to Saudi Arabia

By James M. Dorsey The meteoric rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its declaration of an Islamic State straddling the two Arab countries raises the spectre of a militant Islamist state in the heart of the Middle East East close to the borders of US allies like Israel, Jordan and …

Daily News Egypt

Football pitches: An emerging battleground for control of Iraq

By James M. Dorsey Iraqi football pitches have emerged as an alternative battleground in the struggle for control of Iraq between the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls chunks of northern Iraq, and embattled Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Iraqi officials said the broadcasting last Sunday in Baghdad’s Al-Shaab International Stadium of the World Cup …

Daily News Egypt

World Cup boosts Iran’s image, highlights political sports battles

By James M. Dorsey It didn’t take long for it to emerge that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shared an understanding of football’s political utility with predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose conservative policies he hopes to reverse. Like Ahmadinejad, Rouhani, a cleric, is seeking to identify himself with the success of his country’s national football team, delivering …

Daily News Egypt

AFC power struggle reflects sorry state of football governance

By James M. Dorsey   FIFA Vice President and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, in an uncommon display of elegance and magnanimity in the rarefied world of world soccer as well as of Middle Eastern and North African leaders, has conceded defeat in a battle that is symptomatic of …

Daily News Egypt

Lax FIFA policing of political interference in football focuses on Egypt

By James M. Dorsey World football body FIFA has dispatched investigators to Egypt to probe allegations of government interference as the country prepares for potentially risky bids to host two international tournaments, the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup and the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup. The FIFA investigation and the bids come against the …

Daily News Egypt

Jail sentences re-position Egyptian football as potential protest venue

By James M. Dorsey An Egyptian court has sentenced 12 militant football fans to five years in prison in an expansion of the military-backed regime’s crackdown on its Islamist and non-Islamists opponents that could ultimately re-position football as a major platform of protest. The fans, members of Ultras Ahlawy, the well-organised and street battled-hardened militant …

Daily News Egypt

Egyptian autocrats struggle with football’s political pros and cons

By James M. Dorsey An Egyptian government initiative to build more than a thousand new football pitches to “keep youth off the streets” against the backdrop of a rising number of clashes between fans and security forces and a likely extension and expansion of the ban on spectators attending matches highlights the opportunities and threats …

Daily News Egypt

Bahrain detains soccer teams and scores of players and athletes

By James M. Dorsey Bahrain has detained a soccer team as well as scores of other players and athletes since security forces squashed a popular uprising almost three years ago, according to human rights activists, journalists and officials. In one of the latest rounds of detentions, authorities last month arrested three soccer and two handball …

Daily News Egypt

World Cup emerges as agent of change in Qatar

By James M Dorsey Qatar is taking a beating in the court of public opinion with almost daily headlines raising questions about the way the Gulf state does business. Yet, its hosting of the 2022 World Cup is emerging six months into the reign of Qatar’s new emir as an agent of change. Harsh working …

Daily News Egypt

Turkish football’s financial crisis potentially sharpens political divide

By James M. Dorsey Financially stressed Turkish football clubs are becoming pawns in the political struggle between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and militant football fans who rank prominently among his detractors as football pitches and university campuses emerge as major battlefields between the government and its detractors. Critics of Mr Erdogan charge that the …

Daily News Egypt

Turmoil in Egypt: Learning lessons from the Philippines

By James M. Dorsey With Egypt deeply polarised politically and religiously, kick–starting a political process capable of bridging divides and creating an inclusive democratic process seems a distant prospect. It will ultimately depend on the likely shrinking over time of the military’s popular base and the government’s realisation that it needs the United States and …

Daily News Egypt

Lebanese sports scandals fuel tensions

By James M Dorsey As Lebanon, a country in which almost every facet of life is defined by sectarian fault lines, teeters in the shadow of the civil war in next door Syria, the country is also being rocked by multiple mushrooming sports scandals. Months after a massive football match-fixing scandal became public and three …

Daily News Egypt

Gulf rivalries spill onto the football pitch

By James M Dorsey The battle between Iran and various Gulf states for the identity of the energy-rich region has spilled onto its football pitches. It’s the Persian Gulf League v the Arabian Gulf League. The struggle erupted when the United Arab Emirates, alongside Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s most fervent opponent of political Islam, recently …

Daily News Egypt

FIFA reaffirms its role as a pillar of established order

By James M Dorsey A recent visit by world football body FIFA president SeppBlatter to the Middle East spotlighted the group’s role as a pillar of the existing political and football governance order under the guise of a fictional separation between sports and politics, rather than a force for greater transparency and accountability. To be …

Daily News Egypt

Tactical retreat: Ultras absent from protests in Egypt and Turkey

By James M. Dorsey Militant, highly politicised football fans who played key roles in the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, opposition to post-Mubarak military rule and last month’s mass protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been, as organisations, conspicuously absent from the dramatic scenes in Cairo with the overthrow of President …

Daily News Egypt

UEFA decision highlights murky Turkish football politics

By James M. Dorsey A decision by European football body UEFA to ban two top Turkish clubs from competing in European championships for match-fixing has highlighted potentially murky politics underlying the worst scandal in Turkish sporting history. The decision in response to the Turkish Football Federation’s failure to impose penalties and in advance of an …

Daily News Egypt

Transition in Qatar: Will he or won’t he?

By James M. Dorsey Conventional wisdom predicts that 33-year old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will adhere to his father’s use of sports as a key foreign, defence and security policy tool to embed Qatar in the international community. Experts and pundits suggest that Sheikh Tamim at best will nibble at the fringe of …

Daily News Egypt

Morsi turns to Syria and football to polish his tarnished image

By James M. Dorsey President Mohamed Morsi and his flailing Muslim Brotherhood have turned to foreign policy and soccer to improve their battered image in advance of a planned mass anti-government protest at the end of this month and mounting calls for his resignation. In a bid to distract attention from his domestic woes, curry …

Daily News Egypt

Football emerges as focal point of dissent in Saudi Arabia

  By James M. Dorsey Football, alongside minority Shi’a Muslims and relatives of imprisoned government critics, is emerging as a focal point of dissent in Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich kingdom that, despite banning demonstrations by law, is struggling to fend off the waves of change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Fan pressure is …

Daily News Egypt