Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arab soccer teams stumble and reap what they have sown

If you are a soccer fanatic like me, then most of yesterday was spent in front of the TV watching the final matches of the Asian Qualifiers. For background, ten teams were placed in two groups and they played each other team in their group home and away in a round-robin format. The top team and the 2nd placed team in each group would automatically qualify to the South Africa finals. Meanwhile, the two teams that placed third would still have a chance, but via a longer route; they would have to beat the other 3rd placed team, then beat New Zealand.

Now, there were 4 teams out of the ten that are Arab (Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE). With them being placed two in each group, the ideal scenario for a true Arab sports supporter would have been for all 4 to qualify. The actual results; none of the 4 automatically qualified. Luckily though, we Arabs from Asia still have a chance as Saudi and Bahrain faced third in their groups. Thus, the winner in their duel will face New Zealand for the 5th place. For information, the four representatives of Asian football are Australia, North and South Korea, and Japan.

The sense of disappointment and frustration was evident on all of the Arabs and especially the Saudis during their final match in Riyadh vs. North Korea. Had Saudi won, then it would have qualified. That is hard to imagine if you saw their rusty performance yesterday. They lacked a competitive spirit, they did not display urgency; they were playing as if it was a practice session. A complete difference to their performance in 1994 whereas they shocked the football world by winning their group and did the Arabs proud.

Now, they will blame it on the coach, signing up another multi-million dollar coach who will get fired as soon as they stumble at the next block. After all, who can blame the players when princes interfere and determine whom should play (normally their favorite or the one from the club that they are responsible for). This is not acceptable! As mentioned in an earlier post, we need our sports teams to do us proud and become professional.

We are sick of them failing to do that! Time is running by and we are not progressing. We need to examine the structural roots of that and implement measures to rectify the problems. My layman’s impression is that it is a sense of arrogance and a laid-back attitude by the players. As the Arab proverb states: “You reap what u sow”.

Hopefully, our Arab breathren in Africa will have a better record. Finally, good luck to Bahrain! It would be great if the country of less than a million was able to advance. However, I will not be too disappointed if it was the Saudis who continued their 5 straight appearance in the World Cup Finals. After all, South Korea has made it now 7 straight times. We need to strive to better those sorts of records, in the sports arena and other arenas as well.

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