It's been a while since my last sports review, or any sports related write up. A lot had happened around the sporting world. There are ups and downs in the NBA; In England, the pre-season hype of 4 powerhouses - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, possibly Tottenham just sneaking behind, seemed to have waned to a two-horse race this season; 15th Asian Game has just commenced in Doha, Qatar; and many more.
Before I get to those, there is one article I felt I must share. I came across it on a weekly Football edition of theStar newspaper. I thought it was very well written, and very nice to read on. I couldn't find the online version, so here it is, copy and pasted as per printed on the paper.
It's a little lengthy, but I do hope you can spend time reading it:
Name of the Game
Some have to pay a cruel price for watching a world game, writes ROB HUGHES.
Sometimes the compulsion to watch a soccer game on screen is almost beyond our comprehension.
When Manchester United met Chelsea on Sunday, the pictures were instantly relayed across the globe. The match ended 1-1. it was good but not great, intense but not inspirational.
Yet the marketing of England’s Premier League is such a triumph that audiences stay awake in the Far East, and wake up in the Americas to see the action “live” in a pub, or in a cinema.
But can the view be worth risking liberty, even life?
From Somalia came news that masked gunmen, seemingly representing the Islamic Courts Union, had stormed a cinema in the central region of Hiiraan during the game. Shafici Mohyaddin Abokar, a local sports writer, reported on the website of AIPS, the International Sports Press Association, that 25 fans, some as young as 10, had been arrested, after having their heads shaved, and jailed.
The militia also reportedly confiscated and destroyed cinema equipment in the Buuloburde district.
The crime, apparently, was being caught doing what people across the world do on a Sunday night: get drawn into the global game.
It may be hard to grasp that for the entrance fee equivalent to 30 US cents, men and boys in an African land risk everything.
Even as they languished in prison, Chelsea was announcing on Tuesday that it is to
open a new Chinese-language version of its website.
This spread of soccer, this race to what Chelsea’s chief executive, Peter Kenyon, boasts will make the richest club the world’s famous “brand”, was announced in Dubai, where leaders of soccer and business had their annual convention of mutual self-interest.
Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, was there, explaining why the world governing
body had suspended Iran for political interference in the running of soccer. Suspending, yet making an exception for the duration of the Asian Games that are about to start in Qatar.
He said nothing about Somalia.
It takes extremely brave people even to report what is happening there while the struggle for Islamic control of the country is so extreme. A year ago, three people were killed by a grenade lobbed into another cinema, coincidentally during another Manchester United-Chelsea screening.
And during the World Cup in July, a cinema owner and a teenage girl were slain by a gunman in central Somalia while they watched a match in Germany.
The Somalians cannot say they have not be warned. The Islamic Courts Union militia, which has gradually extended its power from the capital, Mogadishu, has repeatedly forbidden children to play or to watch soccer.
The game has been declared a “satanic act” by some of the rulers. On the AIPS website this week, Abokar quotes Sheik Hussein Barre Raage, an administrator of the Islamic Courts Union in Buuloburde, as saying: “Now the bad lovers of sports are in jail, and will remain there until they are taught the good culture and lessons of Islam.”
The sheikh blamed “bad games descended from the old Christian cultures” and allegedly said that the youngsters would be “ forgotten in jail” if they again watched matches at the cinema rather than attend special holy war registration centres.
How can the men who play the game, or the entrepreneurs who sell it as far and as wide as the technology will allow, feel responsible for acts in another culture, almost another life?
The closest anyone came to committing a satanic act during the drawn match at Manchester’s so-called Theatre of Dreams on Sunday was when Chelsea’s Didier Drogba elbowed Nemanja Vidic in the face.
That elbow, which looked for all the world like a calculated piece of villainy, was perpetrated by a forward from Ivory Coast against a defender from Serbia.
Both are hired by clubs in the English Premier League. Both earn riches of US$100,000 per week, or more.
And it is for the referee, Howard Webb, to know how he interpreted the laws of the game so leniently that he showed Drogba the yellow card, a caution, rather than the red card for dismissal that the laws of the game say deliberate violent conduct warrants.
Something had been going on between the Ivorian and the Serb from the early contest. From the way that Drpogba glanced at Vidic behind him, looked to see where the opponent was, and then rose with his elbow cocked, this had all the appearance of a crime under soccer’s strict coding.
Not surprisingly, Jose Mourinho, soccer’s most vituperative critic of referees, pronounced that “the result is fair, Webb did his job well.”
Meanwhile, for celebrating a goal of a lifetime, a goal of fantastic beauty, Ronaldinho was also shown a yellow card in Barcelona.
Ronaldinho’s timing in coming back to form is impeccable. Barcelona, without Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi and Javier Saviola – all injured – needs its genie now more than ever.
And he, aware that his season has not sparkled as usual and that Fabio Cannavaro, Italy’s victorious World Cup defender and captain, had won the Golden Ball as player of the year, felt it was time to remind everyone of his talent.
Ronaldinho has scored 72 goals in his time at Barcelona. He was never scored one like this. Two minutes from the end of a 4-0 thrashing of Villarreal, he used his chest to control a pass from Xavi Hernandez.
The Brazilian then turned away from goal. The defenders around him relaxed, and in that instant with complete and knowing athletic quality, Ronaldinho rose and gently, artfully lobbed the ball over his left shoulder past the startled Villarreal goalkeeper into the net.
Ronaldinho said he dreamed of scoring a goal like that. He warned that he has another dream, to score from the halfway line. Coming soon, no doubt.
No sooner had he pulled off this sporting dream than television cameras panning the audience of 78,417 showed the sheer joy of witnessing such artistry. Whoever you support, you cannot but applaud such skill, such audacity.
Everyone in the stadium, bar one, loved it. Referee Miguel Angel Perez Lasa whipped out his yellow card and admonished Ronaldinho for taking off his shirt and whirling it above his head.
Yellow for an elbow in the face. Yellow for celebrating a masterpiece. And jail for watching the game in the wrong part of the world. It is a weird, not always wonderful effect for a game to have. – IHT
More updates coming soon.