Friday, July 10, 2009

Sudan's Al-Merrikh Through to CECAFA Final - In a Globalized World, Sports Emerges as a Force for Change

From Sudan Radio Service, Friday, 10 July 2009:
Al-Merrikh Through to CECAFA Final
Friday, 10 July 2009 – (Khartoum) – Sudan’s Al-Merrikh has qualified for the final of the CECAFA Club Championship after defeating Mazimbe of the Democratic Republic of Congo at home on Thursday night in the semi-finals. Final score 2- 1.

Mazimbe of the DRC scored their first goal in the 15th minute of the first half while Al-Merrikh Nigerian’s striker, Endurance Idahor, scored for Al-Merrikh in the second half, making both teams level at the final whistle.

An extra thirty minutes were added. Al-Merrikh’s Idahor scored the second and winning goal just minutes before the end of extra time.

Al-Merrikh, three times winner of the CECAFA cup, will play in the final on Sunday evening against the winner of the other semi-final match, between Mathare United of Kenya and Atraco of Rwanda on Friday night.
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Today, I posted this at Blair Foundation Watch.

From The New York Times
In a Globalized World, Sports Emerges as a Force for Change
Published: July 10, 2009
LONDON — The sporting superstar has reached a level of global recognition beyond any film star.

“There is no movie star in the world who could get thousands of people to wait six hours just to see their arrival, as Cristiano Ronaldo did this week,” said David Puttnam, filmmaker turned law maker in the British House of Lords.

Puttnam, who over 30 years produced award-winning films, including “Chariots of Fire,” “The Killing Fields,” “Bugsy Malone,” and “Memphis Belle,” is certain that Tom Cruise could not hope to draw 80,000 to a movie theater the way Ronaldo did to his signing ceremony at Real Madrid’s Bernabéu stadium last Monday.

“I have watched the dynamic of the superstar shift from film to sports,” Puttnam added. “The whole level of globalization of sports is bigger. The key is engagement. The power of sport has taken the movie industry by surprise.”

We were speaking at the Beyond Sport summit meeting in London where Puttnam — now Lord Puttnam, legislator and ambassador for Unicef — joined people from government offices to ground workers in some of the world’s most violent crime spots to discuss the power of sports.

Fame need not be frivolous. Puttnam, 68, has witnessed the emergence of celebrity added to charitable causes, from Danny Kaye, the American actor, singer and dancer of the 1950s, to the David Beckham phenomenon today.

He shared a panel at Beyond Sport with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister now working on reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Beside them was Prince Faisal Al Hussein, adviser to Jordan’s armed forces as well as the founder of Generations for Peace, which attempts to use sport to unite youth.

And besides them was Dikembe Mutombo, a former N.B.A. star now using his stature back home in the Democratic Republic of Congo to construct hospitals and research centers in his hometown of Kinshasa. Mutombo went to the United States on a scholarship hoping to become a doctor. He returned to Africa as more than a doctor, using fame and fortune, to try to turn the tide of H.I.V.

He appeals to soccer in particular to put more back into a continent, which European clubs have plundered of so many star players.

Even down to Ronaldo, there is a social conscience that should not be overlooked. Showmanship is a major part of his talent, and playing the prima dona is second nature to him.

Yet this same performer who loves the crowd to love him also, at the relatively unknowing age of 20, was one of the first in to Aceh Province after the tsunami devastation of December 2004. Touched by the bravery of a boy found wandering the beach, lost after most of his family were washed away in the horror, Ronaldo paid for the boy to attend a match involving his own national team, Portugal.

The player, then at Manchester United, flew to Indonesia to give his time and presence to raise more than a billion rupiahs, then about $90,000, toward rebuilding homes.

“I never cease to be thrilled by some of the players I meet and the way they handle all that surrounds them,” Puttnam said at Beyond Sport. “The Barcelona club pays Unicef to wear our logo on the shirts, and more than that I’ve talked to the players.

“They tell me they get a thrill representing the world’s children. I’ve never had the same conversation with Manchester United players about A.I.G.” The United shirt is sponsored by the American insurance company, though the club has worked for nine years with Unicef without going that extra step that Barcelona did in paying the charity to wear the insignia.

But nobody supposes that sports clubs are anything less than big businesses these days. The fusion of cricket and Bollywood captures the modern world — and the worlds of celebrity, sport and entertainment.

Blair, the politician discovering the extraordinary pulling power of sports, said: “Most world leaders I have met enjoy something about sport, and some even play. But I think over the years it has become of a different magnitude, and we are only just beginning to understand the utility of sports.” He recalls going into a classroom in Japan and trying to relate to children. “I was introduced as the prime minister of Britain,” he says. No response. “I tried to say London.” A flicker.

“Then I said Beck-ham ... Ah, yes, I had a response.” Blair said that the more he learned about the power of government, the more he also discovered the limits of government. Sport, he suggested, could sometimes unlock those limitations.

Later, sitting besides Michael Johnson, the American sprinting icon, Blair admitted: “You know, Michael, when I told my own family who I was meeting today, they were suddenly interested. My kids are used to me talking about world leaders, but a real live sporting superstar, that was something different.” As we left the room, Blair took the opportunity to have his photograph taken with Johnson. For the children, no doubt.

It was reminiscent of Carlos Menem, the Argentine president from 1989-99, appointing Diego Maradona as a sporting ambassador for the world. The president shamelessly courted the soccer star, basked in his popularity. He didn’t know that at that time, leading up to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Maradona had already begun the drug addiction in Naples that ultimately destroyed him as a player, and almost as a man.

This is heady stuff, when politicians and the rest of us put the fleeting stars of sports high on a pedestal, asking some of them to sort out the world’s problems.
Click on tag label CECAFA (here below) to see previous footballing news reports here at Sudan Watch.

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