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What is ‘Sportswashing’?

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Roman Abramovic

Roman Abramovich has announced the sale of Chelsea football club after owning it for 20 years. Being a Russian, he may be “terrified of being sanctioned” said Labour MP Chris Bryant, earlier this week.

First he handed over “stewardship and care” of Chelsea FC to trustees of the Club Foundation, on Saturday, in order to save it. But now he has publicly announced the sale.

All this pressure started with claims of Russian sportswashing amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian Airline, Aeroflot sponsors Manchester United and Russian gas company Gazprom has a deal with Uefa’s Champions League. All these are being highlighted as sportswashing.

Asking about the UK Government response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, Labor former minister Chris Bryant presented his demands and said “Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country? Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets including his £152 million home? And making sure that other people who have had Tier 1 Visas like this are not engaged in malign activity?”

There are many among Chelsea players and fans who support Abramovich and his service for the football club over the years. Abramovich, in his statement, states “I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners.”

But the question is, is sportwashing invented by Russia, Saudi Arabia or UAE? Of course not. The West, especially the US and the UK have used sportswashing and still use it to better their image. 

“We are losing the respect of the peoples of the world,” John F. Kennedy stressed during his campaign. This was before the 1960 Olympics which was used as sportswashing, even though the name wasn’t invented. 

“We don’t feel at all abashed about urging our boys in Rome to go out and beat the pants off the Russians and everyone else,” an editorial of Sports Illustrated stated.

In the middle of the cold war and five years into the Vietnam war, at the time when the Soviet had launched Sputnik in 1957, distracting people with the Olympics is sportwashing by definition. 

By the end of the Vietnam war, in 1973, the US dropped more than 338,000 tons of napalm in Vietnam, which 10 times more than that destroyed North Korea. Even then the North captured south Vietnam by 1975. The US Government tried to cleanse its reputation by getting involved in the 1976 Olympics. 

President Ford made an 18 member Olympics committee in June1975 and said that Committee “shall determine what factors impede or prevent the United States from fielding its best amateur athletes for participation in the Olympic Games and other international amateur sporting events.”

In July 1976, President Ford went to the Canadian border to send off the USA Athletes. “On behalf of all Americans —215 million of us—good luck and God bless you,” the President Said, “From every indication I get we’re going to do darned well in Montreal,” he added.

Whether it is the 1948 London Olympics which was the most covered Olympics until then, or obsession with football league in the UK, at a time when the UK and NATO are involved in wars is in fact sportswashing. 

It is hypocritical that Abrovich is forced to sell Chelsea FC, when it suits the UK, but when they need the US and the UK to utilize sportswashing for their benefit. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Society

Why Africa is always disadvantaged at the World Cup

The African continent is bristling with talent and its potential for the sport is huge. Morocco’s spectacular run – within touching distance of the final itself – is a message to the world that Africa will most likely have a World Cup winning team in the not too distant future.

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African football 2

Is FIFA fair toward African nations in the World Cup Finals?  

Morocco made history after qualifying for the semi-finals in the FIFA World Cup (hosted in Qatar), being the first African or Arab nation to have ever done so. Previously African nations have only managed to get to the quarterfinals – Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. But the odds had always been stacked against the African continent. Their win came after defeating some of the top teams in previous rounds.

Football became an integral part of Africa after the sport had been introduced to the continent by European colonizers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Colonisers initially used sport as a way to impose “moral codes” upon the colonised, and to inculcate a sense of obedience in them. However African nations including Egypt, Sudan and Algeria utilised the game as a means to mobilise independent movements against colonisation. Consequently, football developed into a nationally acclaimed and loved sport resulting in many African countries taking their love for football forward, and qualifying for the FIFA World Cup finals.

In May 2016, the world football governing body and FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino introduced the FIFA Forward Development Programme’ which aims to develop football and related infrastructure in poorer countries by providing funds to improve their footballing capacity.

The initiative provides support to each of FIFA’s 211 Member Associations. Each of the Member Associations receive up to $1.25m every year of which is used “$500,000 for operational costs and $750,000 for tailored projects which includes construction of facilities and other projects as planned by members and approved by FIFA”.

However, countries that show high potential are chosen based on certain eligibility criteria allowing them to be a part of the development programme. Whilst other countries mostly across Europe make use of the provided support “only 32% of funding is being utilised by Africa because 19 nations [have] failed to meet the basic requirements from FIFA to access the funds.”

Many African nations that fail to meet FIFA’s eligibility criteria have done so as a result of a lack of infrastructure at domestic level, and due to invalid documentation. This FIFA initiative not only financially supports and boosts confidence in Member Associations, but also provides facilities such as “better level playing [fields]” which has helped countries improve in their game and overall performance.

Ghanaian coach, Otto Addo, spoke about possible factors that hinder African teams from progressing further in the World Cup. He bemoaned the comparative lack of slots available to the African continent for the tournament.  “There was never a point where everybody had an equal chance at the start…It’s very, very difficult if you have five slots to get far. If you have 12 or 14 slots…the probability that a team will get further is much much higher”, he said.  Mr Addo believes that more of Africa’s 54 teams should be able to qualify and be tested at the prestigious football tournament.

Corruption has been prevalent among officials preventing African nations from displaying their full potential to FIFA.[1]  Commenting on this, Emmanuel Maradas, former FIFA official and ex-editor of African Soccer explained: “When you have money, you have mismanagement, corruption, a lack of seriousness, and a lack of planning”. Whilst other nations make sound financial decisions keeping upcoming tournaments in mind, the administrative bodies in African nations fail to do so effectively. Maradas continued, “If you go to the African federations and ask what sort of plan they have for the next World Cup they will say wait and see…the downfall of African football is the administration”.

But the money  allocated for the purpose of improving standards of the sport has a high risk of ending up as bribes and going into the pockets of corrupt football federations and agents.[2]   U.S. Atty. General Loretta Lynch found that: “FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision”. This included allegations of secret wire transfers between Swiss and American bank accounts and South African  officials giving “a briefcase stuffed with U.S. currency in stacks of $10,000” to a representative of former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner.

Hence, Mokoena, who was the captain of South Africa at the 2010 World Cup had criticised Africa for failing to raise the standard for football and believed there is plenty for them to work on. “We need to fix our football before we can ask for more spots at the World Cup”.

Many players from Africa have preferred to play for European clubs citing better infrastructures and opportunities as a reason.  This has been detrimental to the development of football in the African continent as a lot of talent has been lost to European countries. However, racial discrimination is one of the reasons that many go back to play for or in their home nation and that includes players of African descent but who were born in Europe. This has been possible due to the 2004 FIFA eligibility rule change which allows players to represent different teams at the youth international levels and senior international levels respectively.

Ivory Coast footballer Yaya Toure, who played for Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2019 has also spoken up about the injustice towards African teams in the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Toure said: “When we play at the World Cup, any African will back any African team. Because we want to hear the different approach to African football. We want to hear that Africans can do well and Africans do well”.

What this year’s World Cup in Qatar surely demonstrated is that even though France defeated Morocco in the semi-final, the African continent is bristling with talent and its potential for the sport is huge, as at least 12 of the French squad’s 23 players were of African descent. And Morocco’s spectacular run – within touching distance of the final itself – is a message to the world that Africa will most likely have a World Cup winning team in the not too distant future.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Media

Mo Farah’s experiences show the impact of compassion toward the “others”

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Mo Farahs Documentary

While the world spins in a gyre of unrest, a BBC documentary on the life of British Athlete Mo Farah has brought another darker aspect to light. In a 60-minute documentary, Mo Farah, whose name at birth was Hussein Abdi Kahin, revealed he was trafficked into the UK from the former French colony of Djibouti. 

Sharing experiences of his bleak past and his feelings of devastation and alienation in a world that was new to him Farah told the BBC how the conflict in his birthplace of Somaliland forced his mother to send him to his relatives in Djibouti from where his miseries began. While the documentary shows the struggles he went through to make his way in a country far away from home, it also serves as a reminder of being considerate and compassionate toward immigrants and the “others” of a society. 

According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), young kids in countries of conflict, economic decline, and marginalized communities are at higher risk of getting “tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes”. They are then forcefully used as work slaves or treated as commodities for sale. 

The International Organization for Migration has also noted that trends in human trafficking are gendered as well. Both men and women are chosen and trafficked to perform certain jobs. It further explains how immigrants can also fall prey to human traffickers as their social vulnerabilities, unfortunately, makes them an easier target. 

As per the most recent figures[1]  available, about forty-nine thousand people were trafficked[2] . These figures, up till 2018, do not include the cases that went undetected because of the lack of resources for identification and screening at borders. 65% of these people comprised women and girls, while 20% of men and 15% of young boys were trafficked from various regions around the world. Since then, however, the state of the world has drastically changed. Covid-19 has put various communities on the verge of financial decline. This, in turn, has increased the risk of people in those communities and countries, trying to find stability and financial security, and falling prey to human traffickers. 

Similarly, after the US pulled its forces out of Afghanistan deserting an already socially, politically, and economically turbulent country. It created a huge influx of migrants towards western nations as well as its neighboring countries, thus escalating opportunities for the unscrupulous to exploit those desperate enough into forced labor.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine is another example of a conflict that has also forced people from both countries to evacuate to a safe place. In these types of situations, vulnerable, people and especially children become an easy target.

While the victims are forcefully exploited for work, they continue to live in visually civilized societies. The biasedattitude of people towards the “others” of society renders them unnoticed. These biases are fed to people through electronic and print media. While stereotyped accents and professions make it difficult for immigrants, refugees, and the apparent “aliens” of society to find their place, it also increases the chances of victims of child and human trafficking to continue being under the shadow of their oppressor. 

The trauma of fleeing an area of conflict, or forcefully being removed from one’s home makes it difficult for victims of human trafficking and refugees to play an active role in society. But as proven by Mo Farah, when proper attention and care is given to even those who seem “misfits,” they can become an asset and inspiration to a whole nation.

A boy separated from his mother at a young age, was able to return to her years later as Knight of the Realm and honored by Her Majesty the Queen, and all because of the decency, care, and humanity shown to him by his early education teachers.


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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

José Mourinho wants African players to represent their countries of origin

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Jose Mourinho

José Mourinho, coach of A.S. Roma and a former Portuguese football player, has stated that he wants FIFA to stop African players from representing other countries other than that of their origin, believing that that will lead to “African countries winning the world cup”, according to multiple sources.

Mourinho believes that Africa has quality players and has even said “My success is always based on having on African strikers. Without an African striker I feel like I won’t succeed.” He believes that when African players leave their homeland to play for European teams, African nations are deprived of winning the world cup.

He also said: “I want the world to realise that Africa is equal to everyone…they have the ability to win any game, only because most of their players are scattered all over the world playing for other countries beyond their homelands.”

“I know I won’t be popular for making this statement, but FIFA should make things fair by refusing to let players represent other countries, this will make FIFA tournaments even more competitive not one-sided.”

Mourinho is spending his summer in Africa due to his special relationship with the beautiful continent. He lovingly says about Ghanian superstar Michael Essien “He is not my player, he is my son. I am his white daddy…He’s the only one who took me to his home, to his real home…”

Some sources believe that through this potential rule, Africa could win this year’s World Cup if players played for their countries of origin. Many people are talking about France suffering under this potential rule especially, since the French national football team is half made up by black players.

Many disagreed with Mourinho by saying that Africa is ‘too’ corrupt to make Africans play football in their home countries or that the new idea is wrong since you cannot force someone to be attached to a certain country.

Saddick Adams, a popular sports journalist, also disagreed with Mourinho online and said “African countries must first be interested and willing to invest and develop their own talents as well. No person should be banned from pulling on a shirt for a country that has shown them love and invested in them. Africa should even be thankful.” In response to this tweet Adams received a lot of positive feedback from others, liking and sharing his tweet.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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Raisman and Biles
  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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Stade De France 505 rotated
  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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Qatar Airways Boeing 777

While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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