Football hooliganism in Saudi Arabia

Football hooliganism in Saudi Arabia
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Published May 18th, 2015 - 14:58 GMT via

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The cold sore of football hooliganism
The cold sore of football hooliganism

Saad Al-Dosari

After a long season, the Saudi football scene is coming to an end for the year. The professional league has just finished and there are few games remaining in the King’s championship.

The drama in the Saudi sports continued during this season as well. It is really just not easy being a football fan in the Kingdom.

You could be minding your own business the whole season, cheering for your own team, watching sports as it should be watched, till your favorite team stumbles along the way. You are then left with no choice but to face the bitter truth; on your social media accounts, your phone, and an extended period of your working hours following your team’s loss, you will be bombarded with all kinds of jokes ever invented.

It is an ugly road. I have seen so many friendships lost, and even worse, family ties strained and almost broken because of nothing but the silliness of hooliganism.

While sports have always been coated in those dreamy slogans of fair competition, of noble pursuit of victory, of honor and teamwork, however, what happens between fans has nothing to do with those catchphrases. On the ground, it is a field full of cynicism, discrimination and a shallow sense of respect and responsibility.

Some psychological studies explain that the feelings of strong attachment toward one’s favorite team satisfy a person’s basic instinct of belonging. We need to know that we belong to a larger group that we can be identified with, we like to come together to dream and share the same objective, something similar to what our early ancestors used to do — coming together to build safety shelters, hunting together to maximize their trophies.

I am not personally able to fathom the feelings some fans nurse against the opponent team’s supporters. Some studies suggest that people do have inner and suppressed tendencies to violence, and sport is a plausible arena for those tendencies to emerge and grow.

Unfortunately, it is a global phenomenon; wherever there are sport teams and fans, there is hooliganism. The degree to which this hooliganism manifests itself in public is the only thing that differs. In the Kingdom, the situation is getting worse from one season to another.

What adds insult to the injury is that sportsmanship is abandoned by those who should be embracing and promoting it, affecting the fans. I am talking about sports media personalities and some of the local clubs heads. Most of our sports shows, interviews, and PR statements encourage hooliganism in one way or the other, if not in a direct and blunt way, then in a disguised tone. Fans watching such shows and listening to such interviews get charged with a huge dose of negativity, waiting for the right moment to discharge it in some form.

This last season was full of examples of how sportsmanship is deteriorating in the country. Losing the final of the Asian Cup was not a normal loss for a team that fought till the end and should be thanked for that, it turned into epic chronicles of the most superficial hooliganism I have ever seen in the world. If you win the title, you do not deserve it, referees and competitors were surely bought to pave the path of success for you; and oh, the referee is carrying the same nationality of the other team’s coach, there must be something fishy there; and if one of the players want to leave a team to its competitor, that would never happen, let’s make his life miserable and preferably end his career before it even starts.

Hooliganism is poisoning our sport environment. The way out is a tight control on all the acts encouraging such behavior. As a media personnel, a club administrator, or even a father with kids showing interests in sports, you carry the responsibility of instilling those noble values sports should represent in your kids or fans’ hearts.

There is no space for hatred to live and grow in a healthy sports environment, sports should bring us together, not drift us apart.

Copyright: Arab News © 2015 All rights reserved.

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