Libyan footballers play on despite shootings and empty stadiums : Libyan Embassy – London
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Home » Libya » Joint Communique on Libya

By: Wil Crisp
October 31 2013

Violence and intimidation are plaguing Libya’s national football league two months into the first season since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Mohamed al-Maghrabi, the star striker of Tripoli’s Ahly football club, has been shot in the arm and the team coach has fled to Egypt after being attacked in a drive-by shooting.

The chaotic start to the season comes as Libya’s wider security continues to deteriorate. It is also a blow to football fans, who were hoping that the revolution would mark a new beginning for the sport, which was riddled with corruption under Gaddafi.

The turmoil is crystallised at Ahly, one of Libya’s two largest clubs. Hossam al-Badri, the coach, accused the striker of trying to murder him. Two days after the attack on Badri, Maghrabi himself was shot. He was arrested on his return from Tunisia, where he was operated on.

Sasi Buown, the Ahly chairman, said that his club was being victimised for their good start to the season. Many of the players have received death threats.

“What these people are doing is attacking the whole game of football in Libya,” he told The Libya Herald after the attack on Maghrabi. “They are targeting al-Ahly after our good results in the league.”

Three foreign team members have stayed away from training at Ahly and the coach remains in Egypt. However, the club insists that it will continue to participate in the 16-team, semi-professional league.

Since the domestic league restarted in September teams have been forced to play in empty stadiums after a ban on fans because of fears that games would be a focal point for tribal rivalries.

Under the dictatorship games were regularly fixed in favour of Gaddafi’s son Saadi, who was at one point captain of Ahly as well as president of the Libyan Football Federation and a commander of the country’s Special Forces.

Commentators were forbidden from saying the names of players other than Saadi and were instructed to refer to them by their numbers instead.

The football stands served as an unlikely site of resistance under the Gaddafi regime, although demonstrations were often silenced quickly.

In 2000 rioting broke out after a game at which Saadi’s team was awarded two dubious last-minute penalties. Irate fans stormed the pitch then took to the streets burning pictures of Gaddafi before setting fire to the headquarters of the Libyan Football Federation.

Libya is due to host the African Cup of Nations in 2017.

Source: The Times

Categories: Libya, News, Press

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