"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A few outside words about soccer

Ok, about football.  Irredeemably American, I suppose.

The Gulf Cup just took place, and the lead-up to it was the fear that there would be attacks from AQAP or the Southern Movement in an attempt the discredit the government or just to sew chaos.  Security was very tight- this is something that I regret not talking about, but I couldn't find an angle other than "FEAR THIS" and so for once wanted to avoid it.   Anyway, it went off smashingly, as this Robert Worth article shows.

We also have comments from reader Dozival, on the ground in Aden, printed in full.

Not really about your latest post but - 'Aden Felix' - hardly a bean from anyone about how brilliant the 20th Gulf Cup has been for Aden/ Abyan - and Yemen's reputation in general! The atmosphere's been brilliant, the security immense (I've never been helped across the road with a buggy by a Kalashnikov-wielding soldier before), the participation by families and women particularly noteworthy. Football crowds and no alcohol - would be a dream for British police! They were just so enthusiastic and I get the impression people from the other (much richer) Gulf states that they were really impressed, have made new friends, experienced Yemeni hospitality and have gone away with a different view of Yemen (which was, let's face it, frankly despised by wealthier Arab states). I just got home from Aden tonight. The final fireworks were something else! Buildings have been painted, railings and lamp-posts ditto, there are illuminated artificial trees on all the roundabouts, all the fountains are working and all the people I've met with have been really positive. Which doesn't mean they are ardent Saleh supporters - just that they've really appreciated this opportunity to be the focus of an important Arab nation football competition.

In an email, Dozival also mentioned how the painting projects were spearheaded by females, which lead to possibly unusual and bright color choices.   This is great, because after the civil war, Aden was plagued by a spate of what I irritatingly would call "northern realism"- the concrete-drab repetition of urban expansion.   

The question, of course, is whether this success is a respite or a new start.  Sports can bring people together, as much as tear them apart, and the major source of discontent in Yemen is the feeling that the regime is as unable to get things done as it is corrupt and authoritarian.   I don't think a successful tournament can chance all of that, but I think it also proves what we've been saying all along- there is national pride in Yemen; the idea of the nation isn't an invented one.   If this, in and of itself, is fleeting, it does go some ways into disproving the idea that anarchy is the natural state of being.  

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