Monday, July 7, 2014

Why Religious Fanatics Hate Football

It has now become a sad story. Every four years, FIFA World Cup is held somewhere in the world. In recent years, some fanatic group has found the opportunity to ban watching the world cup on television, or worse still, attack the people who watch the matches.Sports in general were banned in certain regions under the control of fanatic groups. Taliban banned sports in Afghanistan. The Islamic Courts Union, the forerunner of Al-Shabab in Somalia, banned watching football matches some years back. Then in 2010, football fans watching the world cup were attacked in Uganda. Two bomb attacks by the Al-Shabab cold bloodedly murdered 74 people.

Now a repeat of those events is taking place once again. Al Shabab claimed responsibility to an attack on football fans in Kenya several weeks back which killed 48 people. Meanwhile the Nigerian group Boko Haram claimed the lives of some more football fans. An attack on a group of football fans was reported from Nigeria in late May too.

Terror attacks and banning sports are not the same thing. Terrorists take the opportunity to attack any large gathering of people so that they can cause maximum damage. Of course, the attacks on people that watch football games will dissuade them from watching matches at large gatherings. People are joining such places not only to meet friends. In some countries, they come also because they do not have televisions at home to watch matches.

However, the banning of sports including football has been enforced by certain groups citing religious reasons. They have also banned other facets of materialistic, modern lives, such as social media, television and Western clothing. One main reason for this strict enforcement of rules is to keep their hold on the people they rule over. It’s a matter of control.

However, in the case of football and other team sports, there is another reason. One country which can show that reason is Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is essentially a divided country. In the wake of the breakup of Former Yugoslavia, the country was engulfed in a brutal war, which only ended in 1995. The war saw former neighbors, Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats, at each others' throats. The eventual establishment of peace did not however help heal the wounds at once. Football helped a lot in this. Sometimes, football was the only source of unity in a divided country.

Bosnia’s rise to international fame in football is phenomenal, despite the fact that it had a rich tradition in the game before 1992 as part of Yugoslavia. Today they have some star players any club would like to have in their lineup. Except a handful of players, all footballers in the national squad now play for foreign clubs. They include Edin Dzeko, who is their main striker. He has been a star in the English Premier League, playing for Manchester City.
Edin Dzeko

Dzeko, a Bosniak, was just six when the war broke out. “They were hard years. There wasn’t much to eat. I was afraid. We always had to hide when shots were fired and bombs were falling. My house was destroyed, so we went to live with my grandparents. The whole family, maybe 15 people, staying in an apartment of about 35 square metres” he would later recall in an interview with The Independent in the UK.

Qualification for Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup is the zenith of Bosnia and Herzegovina's international football history as an independent nation. The team did not progress from the preliminary round. However, to a country still living with the scars of war, even this is a great achievement.

Afghanistan has been another exceptional case in international arena. The national cricket team has been extraordinary, to say the least. So has been the football team. Team sports such as these are uniting factors. It has given an avenue of escape from destruction, and a sense achievement as well as national pride to the Afghans.

In both Bosnia and Afghanistan, sports have proved to be a uniting factor when almost everything else failed. Football takes a special place in such societies as it is a game of poor people as well. It is a great agent of social mobility too. To various fanatic groups, such unity and hope is a debilitating factor. They strive to annihilate current systems and impose their own. Sports are challenges to their aspirations. Therefore, it is no wonder that fanatics hate sports, such as football. Its not just about religion. Its about power.

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