Despots – Don’t Let the Boy Run the Team

25 Feb

It has been reported that Egypt’s soccer “ultras” played a significant role in fomenting the revolution. Next door in Libya, Colonel Gadaffi sent his “soccer star” son, Saadi, into the streets with cheering fans from Tripoli’s two clubs, Al Ahly Tripoli and Alittihad, implying that Libyan soccer was not revolutionary but the vanguard of the status quo. The message failed to get through to the fans in Benghazi.

Whenever the top chicken in a repressive regime has his young cock ruling the nation’s soccer roost, it is almost a guarantee that the results will turn out to be rubbish. Al Saadi al-Gadaffi is a good example. In 2003, with crude oil as his choice of expensive cologne, he managed to sign a contract to play in Italy’s top league with the club Perugia. Here was the son of liberated Libya exercising his athletic prowess in the boot of the old colonial master. His other interests went beyond mediocrity in cleats. They included partial ownership of a famous Italian team. Naturally, he was captain of Libya’s national team and a top official of its soccer federation. The results on the field? Not too good. Libya has never qualified for the World Cup Finals. Saadi, the soccer player, only has 102 friends on Facebook. And as another “Facebook revolution” ignites the Maghreb, being driven around Tripoli saluting to soccer fans may not be enough for Saadi to save his dad.

Saddam’s boy, Uday Hussein, also got the nod from the old man to take charge of soccer. While too fat to play, he was bloated with enough rage to take his soccer management techniques to new levels. Floggings, beatings and being forced to kick a concrete ball around the prison yard were the sure results for players who failed to live up to the standards of the glorious leader. Unhappy Uday got the bullet from the job, and the Americans. The message for despots — don’t let the boy run the soccer team. It ends in defeat.

For good reporting on Middle East soccer’s pivotal influence on events, check out the excellent blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer


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