Saturday, September 3, 2011

Free Libya Soccer

The first signs of trouble in Libya came in early February when Gadhafi called off a match between the Libyan national football team and Algeria, mainly because of the unrest in Tunisa and Egypt.

The Libyan's goal keeper and other members of the team later defected and fought with the rebels.

There is also a cricket stadium named after Gadhafi in Pakistan, which they are now considering renaming.

Gaddafi disliked sports stars

Feared they would nudge him out of spotlight

Reuters Published: 00:00 October 8, 2011

Tripoli: Muammar Gaddafi did not like sports stars because he feared they would draw the national spotlight away from him, and for a time football players could only be referred to on television by their number.

Nabil Al Alem, executive head of Libya's National Olympic Committee, said that, for decades under Gaddafi's rule, athletes and sports officials put up with other forms of state meddling, as well as corruption, restrictions on travel and chronic underfunding.

"He didn't like stars. For example, for a certain period of time you called the players by their numbers, not by their names," Al Alem said of the former Libyan leader.

"Gaddafi didn't know anything about sport. It's superfluous. What's it for? He was willing to spend millions on terrorism, or to pay someone to write songs about him, but not sport," he added.
Al Alem now runs Libya's Olympic body after its president Mohammad Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi's sons, fled to Algeria.


Gaddafi's family and inner circle controlled almost all of Libya's most high-profile institutions and had interests in virtually all the most lucrative contracts. They also tightly controlled Libya's oil wealth. Corruption, nepotism and graft were rife.

"The main problem was people looking for personal gain. Corruption on contracts, for land, in imports .... Mohammad appointed people without qualifications. The qualification was ‘I know you very well, you're part of my family or a friend'."

There was also meddling in sport by one of Gaddafi's other sons, Saadi, who was for a time captain of the national football team.

"In football sometimes Saadi would call you and say ‘Don't play in that match, or don't coach that person'," said Al Alem, who in the past headed Libyan football's National Teams Department.

With Gaddafi and his sons gone, Al Alem is optimistic Libya's new leaders, the National Transitional Council, will pay more attention to sport, which he thinks can heal a nation scarred by war and divided between those for and against Gaddafi.

Libya's 1-0 win over Mozambique in a football match early last month, Libya's first major game since fighters took Tripoli, sent thousands of people into the capital's streets, the crowds almost as large as those that welcomed Gaddafi's downfall.


The Libyan national football team are due to unveil a new kit for their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Mozambique on Saturday in a break with colours associated with Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

The team will now play in a white kit bearing a pre-Gaddafi red, black and green striped flag with a crescent moon, adopted by the rebels and now the National Transitional Council.

Until now, the Libyan team had played in the green colour much favoured by Gaddafi, which he used on the Libyan flag after taking power in 1977 and also formed the cover of his political manifesto.

Four members of the national team were reported to have joined the rebels in June, including goalkeeper Juma Gtat.

The team was pictured during a training session in the new kit.

As well as the new kit, the team are also due to line up before the game to the country's anthem before the Gaddafi.

OmarAmer AlBarghathi, an avid football fan from Benghazi, tweeted his excitement about the new kit. "Quite excited about the Libya - Mozambique game on Saturday. New kit original independence anthem. First time I can proudly support the team," he said.

The game is due to take place in a closed stadium in Cairo due to safety concerns.

South Africa agreed last month to host the African Cup of Nations in 2013 in a swap with Libya, which had been due to hold the cup. Libya will instead host the tournament in 2017.

The change in the Libyan team kit is not just a sign of a new government but Libyan football's break with its own ties to the Gaddafi family.

Gaddafi's son Saadi was a former footballer who signed for three Serie A teams including Perugia and also ran Libya's football federation.

One story recounted by Khalid Agory, a writer for the website of Al-Ahly Benghazi, one of Libya's top football teams, revealed much about his management style. The club's stadium and club house were burnt down and three fans sentenced to death after Saadi was criticised during a match.

Libyans celebrate soccer win under new flag

By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press – 2 hours ago

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Hundreds of joyful Libyans cheered and fired off celebratory gunshots in Tripoli's main square Saturday after the national soccer team won in its first match since rebels toppled Moammar Gadhafi's regime and forced the longtime leader into hiding.

The Libyan team, wearing the colors of the rebel flag and playing in neighboring Egypt, won its African Cup of Nations qualifying match against Mozambique 1-0.

"First there was our great victory over despotism and now in soccer," said Abdel-Wahab Shoush, 52, who brought his young son to be among the crowds gathered in Tripoli's Martyr's Square to watch the match on a giant screen.

The celebrations for the soccer victory blended seamlessly into those marking the fall of the old regime and the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and helped restore a sense of normalcy to the capital after months of war.

After weeks of deserted streets and shuttered stores, the seaside boulevard of Tripoli was clogged with motorists honking horns and waving flags, giving the city the look of any other capital after a sports victory — albeit with substantially more gunfire.

Tracer bullets arced into the sky over Martyrs' Square — until last month the scene of Gadhafi's giant rallies — while families munched on popcorn and children played in a pair of inflated bouncy castles.

Most of the team's players now come from Benghazi, Libya's largest city in the east and one of the first places to shake itself free from Gadhafi's control back in February.

The game was played in Egypt and organized by the Egyptian Football Federation with the approval of the country's interim military rulers, said Abdel-Moneim Mostafa, the technical director of the Confederation of African Football. There was no audience for security reasons.

With one of Gadhafi's sons having aspirations to play professional soccer, the sport was highly politicized in the country and closely controlled by the government.

"Before anything to do with football involved al-Saadi, Mohammed and Moammar — they controlled everything," said Salah al-Sweihly, 36, a rebel from Misrata, referring to Gadhafi and two of his sons.

"Now we are free from the Gadhafis," he said.

Rabie el-Lafi scored in the 30th minute with a shot into the far right corner of the net after a cross from the right from teammate Mohammed al-Mughrabi.

The win gives Libya six points and second place in its group after Zambia to qualify for the Africa's Cup competition, which will be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea from Jan. 21 to Feb. 12.

Wearing a pendant of the rebel flag, 23-year-old Mourad Mounir saw the game as a justification for the seven-month struggle to overthrow the old regime.

"It was special in every way," he said. "It is a victory for the martyrs, not just a soccer game."

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