08 February 2015
Projecting an image of being politically and culturally on the cutting edge, the United Arab Emirates carefully picks its battles. Participation in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS), the jihadist group that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq, has projected the Emirates as a military force to be reckoned with. Soccer is the Emirates’ next target.
Amid an increased emphasis on human rights by international sports associations, the UAE is bidding to host the 2019 Asian Cup. It can safely do so in the knowledge that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is unlikely to take it to task for its poor human and labour rights track record. The AFC has a history of support of autocratic regimes and of thumbing its nose at positions taken by world soccer body FIFA and other associations.
An AFC inspection of the bid during a visit to the UAE this week came days after FIFA President Sepp Blatter declared that human rights would be a criterion in future World Cup bids. Mr. Blatter’s remarks followed severe criticism of Qatar’s regime for migrant workers and a greater focus on human rights by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The UAE is already under fire by human rights groups for its treatment of unskilled and semi-skilled foreign labour as well as its repression of dissent.
…James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 10/02/2015