Connect with us

Sports

Refugee Bahraini footballer, freed from Thai jail, says ‘I love Australia’

Published

on

Refugee Bahraini footballer, freed from Thai jail, says 'I love Australia'

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A refugee Bahraini footballer who was held in a Thai prison for more than two months at the Gulf state’s request arrived in his adoptive home Australia on Tuesday, television pictures showed, to cheers and the great relief of his wife.

Hakeem Al Araibi, 25, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia, was released from prison in Bangkok on Monday. Authorities in Bahrain accused Araibi of crimes committed during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, charges which he denied.

“Australia is my country. I don’t have citizenship yet, but my country is Australia … I love Australia, I will die in Australia,” Araibi said after he disembarked in Melbourne airport from a Thai Airways flight.

Hundreds of supporters clamored to embrace him, TV footage showed, and cheered “Welcome home, Hakeem!”. He wore the colors of Pascoe Vale, the semi-professional team he plays for in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

“Finally, this nightmare has ended,” Araibi’s wife, who has asked for her name not to be published to protect her safety, said in a statement. “My heart is now full with gratitude. Just so thankful that these tears are falling out of relief and joy.”

Newlywed Araibi went to Thailand for his honeymoon but was arrested upon arrival in Bangkok in November, following an Interpol “red notice” issued at Bahrain’s request and brought to Thailand’s attention by Australian police.

He had been convicted of vandalizing a police station in Bahrain and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.

Araibi has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was playing in a televised match at the time the offense was committed, and was granted asylum in Australia in 2017. Bahrain, however, sought his extradition from Thailand.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster (centre right) is seen with refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi (centre) as he arrives at Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Australia, February 12, 2019. AAP Image/David Crosling via REUTERS

He was freed after nearly three months of high-drama diplomacy, legal maneuvering by the governments of Australia, Thailand and Bahrain, and a loud public campaign by footballers and human rights activists.

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison twice wrote to his Thai counterpart to urge Araibi’s release, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne traveled to Bangkok to press for his freedom.

Bahrain halted its extradition bid on Monday, while reserving the right to pursue further action against Araibi.

Craig Foster, a former Australian soccer captain, also led efforts and drew support from Australia’s leading goal scorer, Tim Cahill, and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

“To fight incredibly hard for not just a young player who virtually no one knew, but a refugee who was under our protection … speaks volumes about the character, the values and the pride that we have as Australians,” Foster told reporters in Melbourne after embracing Araibi.

Australia has announced a review of its procedures for handling Interpol red notices. It said Araibi’s case, which it flagged to Thai authorities, should never have been issued because of his refugee status.

Interpol notices are requested by member countries and are then issued by Interpol after a compliance check, according to Interpol’s website. It is then up to member countries to determine its weight or legal value.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Australian police have not commented on the case or their vetting of the notice, beyond confirming that they informed Thailand of Araibi’s impending arrival.

International law academic Lorraine Finlay, a lecturer at Perth’s Murdoch University, said it was not clear what process the Australian Federal Police had followed, other than that it appeared to be highly automated.

“Now that Hakeem Al Araibi is back in Australia … we need to make sure that no person we offer protection to is ever put in this situation again,” she said.

Reporting by Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook in Sydney. Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok.; Editing by Michael Perry and Paul Tait

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sports

Jurgen Klopp needs to rule with his head and focus on the Premier League, not Bayern

Published

on

By

Jurgen Klopp needs to rule with his head and focus on the Premier League, not Bayern

The trick is getting head and heart to coexist in the right proportion, at the right time, and a great manager knows when to turn the dial toward the “heart” end.

It’s how Liverpool came back from 3-0 down in a Champions League final, remember? You loosen the reins, go for it and believe in the improbable. To paraphrase “Risky Business,” it gives you freedom, freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future…

But there are times when you need it turned back toward the “head” end. Knockout European football is jiu-jitsu as much as anything else and Jurgen Klopp, who has won 12 of 15 two-legged knockouts, knows this as well as anyone.

He won’t admit it in so many words — managers are specifically conditioned not to do this — but there’s a bigger picture to consider as Liverpool host Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash.

As important as the Champions League may be, both financially and in terms of prestige, his club are poised to do something they haven’t managed to do in 29 years: become English champions. As droughts go, this one is particularly stinging because when Liverpool last won it back in 1989-90, no English club had won it more times. Since then, Manchester United have passed their 18 league titles — or, as Sir Alex Ferguson famously said, “knocked them off their f—–g perch” — and no club in a major European league, among those who have won more than 10 league titles, has gone as long between titles.

In that sense, Klopp’s head has a very clear message and one that his heart doesn’t like very much: the Premier League must come first.

You can imagine heart and head duking it out over the past 10 days during the club’s warm-weather training in Marbella. The logic speaks volumes. Next Sunday, Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. If they can escape unscathed, they will nose in front of Manchester City (who have played one more match) by either a point or three points. Do that and you control your destiny because the fixture list is kind. Every single away game after that is against a side from the bottom half of the table, except for Everton. And every single home game, bar Chelsea and Tottenham, is against a team from outside the top six.

It’s not a dead cert, by any means — Liverpool learned the hard way, when Steven Gerrard slipped in 2013-14, that there is no certainty in football — but at least a chance at controlling your own destiny.

There’s another factor pointing you toward the league: Your starting central defence may well be made up of two guys (Joel Matip and Fabinho) who, between them, have played the position less than a dozen times in the past 12 months. Joe Gomez is injured. Virgil Van Dijk is suspended. Dejan Lovren hasn’t played in six weeks, missed the training camp and is still nursing his injured hamstring. You don’t want to risk his health because you’ll need him down the stretch, as Gomez might not be back until April.

Plus, you know Manchester City are in the opposite boat. They have a League Cup final to play, they’re through to the quarterfinal of the FA Cup and their Champions League opponents aren’t Bayern but Schalke, who sit 14th in the Bundesliga and have won just once in 2019. That’s where your head tells you: Let them deal with the fixture congestion of advancing in Europe and two domestic cups.

You can hear your head loud and clear. But thrumming away inside you is your heart, and its message is different. Your heart reminds you that many thought you were doomed against City last year, when you were so depleted that you had to call on somebody named Conor Masterson to sit on the bench just so you could field an 18-man squad. And you won home and away, 5-1 on aggregate.

Plus, this is Bayern. Not that long ago, you knocked them off their perch and made your name in world football. Like the cool clique in school, they’re the guys who take it for granted that everyone in German football wants to hang with them. Not you; you turned them down before and you may be asked to do it again. It was sweet then and it would be sweeter still now.

And then there’s maybe the greatest pull of all. Tuesday night, you’ll hear them, even from the bowels of Anfield, even before you walk past the “This is Anfield” sign. You’ll see the Kop moving as one, the wall of sound will hit you, the faces will, for a moment, become distinct before melting back into the red. They too are balancing their hearts and their heads but in that moment, the former will rule. And you’ll be swept up in it. You always are.

Klopp knows his team have lost their last five European games away from Anfield, conceding 12 goals in the process. The question isn’t whether to field an under-strength side and save his big hitters for Manchester United — he won’t do that — but how much mental and emotional energy to expend on this clash.

And so, maybe, you treat this a “free hit.” If you get something from it, you can use that momentum and self-belief as fuel against United. If you come up short, it won’t derail your season.

Tomorrow night, Klopp should go with the head, tempered by the right amount of heart. The trick for him is getting the balance right while keeping his eyes on the prize: The one that has been missing since before the vast majority of his squad, and many of the fans, were even born.

Continue Reading

Sports

Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after 2019 season

Published

on

By

Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after 2019 season

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has announced he will retire after the 2019 season.

Bochy, 63, has been the Giants’ manager since 2007 and has guided them to three World Series championships, in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

Before that he managed the San Diego Padres from 1995 to 2006. He took them to the World Series in 1998, where they lost to the Yankees. He was named Manager of the Year in 1996.

In 24 years as a manager, he has a record of 1,926-1,944. His victory total ranks 11th on the all-time list.

Bochy played nine seasons in the big leagues as a catcher for the Astros, Mets and Padres.

Continue Reading

Sports

French fencing body recognizes lightsaber dueling as a sport

Published

on

By

French fencing body recognizes lightsaber dueling as a sport

BEAUMONT-SUR-OISE, France — Master Yoda, dust off his French, he must.

It’s now easier than ever in France to act out “Star Wars” fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas’ saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.

Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can’t slice a Sith lord in half. But they look and — with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble — even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies.

Plenty realistic, at least, for duelists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized three-minute bouts. The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors. Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a dark side: the sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids.

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue. They don’t do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs,” says Serge Aubailly, the federation secretary general. “It’s becoming difficult to [persuade them to] do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one’s thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”

In the past, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers helped lure new practitioners to fencing. Now, joining and even supplanting them are Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

“Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth,” Aubailly says. “Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try.”

And the young at heart.

Police officer Philippe Bondi, 49, practiced fencing for 20 years before switching to lightsaber. When a club started offering classes in Metz, the town in eastern France where he is stationed for the gendarmerie, Bondi says he was immediately drawn by the prospect of living out the love he’s had for the Star Wars universe since he saw the first film at age 7, on its release in 1977.

He fights in the same wire-mesh face mask he used for fencing. He spent about 350 euros ($400) on his protective body armor (sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads) and on his federation-approved lightsaber, opting for luminous green “because it’s the Jedi colors, and Yoda is my master.”

“I had to be on the good side, given that my job is upholding the law,” he said.

Bondi awoke well before dawn to make the four-hour drive from Metz to a national lightsaber tournament outside Paris this month that drew 34 competitors. It showcased how far the sport has come in a couple of years but also that it’s still light-years from becoming mainstream.

The crowd was small and a technical glitch prevented the duelers’ photos, combat names and scores from being displayed on a big screen, making bouts tough to follow. But the illuminated swooshes of colored blades looked spectacular in the darkened hall. Fan cosplay as Star Wars characters added levity, authenticity and a tickle of bizarre to the proceedings, especially the incongruous sight of Darth Vader buying a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips at the cafeteria during a break.

In building their sport from the ground up, French organizers produced competition rules intended to make lightsaber dueling both competitive and easy on the eyes.

“We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect,” said Michel Ortiz, the tournament organizer.

Combatants fight inside a circle marked in tape on the floor. Strikes to the head or body are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; on hands, one point. The first to 15 points — or, if they don’t get there quickly, the high scorer after three minutes — wins. If both fighters reach 10 points, the bout enters “sudden death,” where the first to land a head- or body blow wins, a rule to encourage enterprising fighters.

Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them. That rule prevents the viper-like, tip-first quick forward strikes seen in fencing. Instead, the rule encourages swishier blows that are easier for audiences to see and enjoy, and which are more evocative of the duels in Star Wars. Of those, the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace” that ends badly for the Sith despite his double-bladed lightsaber is particularly appreciated by aficionados for its swordplay.

Still nascent, counting its paid-up practitioners in France in the hundreds, not thousands, lightsaber dueling has no hope of a place in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But to hear the thwack of blades and see them cut shapes through the air is to want to give the sport a try.

Or, as Yoda would say: “Try not. Do! Or do not. There is no try.”

Continue Reading

Categories

Recent Posts

Like Us On Facebook

Trending