The Unifying Force

The FIFA Ballon d’Or (World Footballer Of The Year) nominations for 2014 were recently announced. The kids MB met last week dream of making that list some day. 

MB stayed in The Millenium hotel in Doha in recent weeks. In same hotel were a number of teams playing in the Arab U17 International Football Tournament, all hosted by the Qatari Football Association, as brand ‘Qatar’ lays foundations for their hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. MB made many new friends.

The Sudani team was on the same hotel floor as MB, so he was bumping into them regularly. Kind of funny coincidence, after MB’s recent trip to their country. The Palestinian, Saudi and Iraqi teams were the others in the hotel and MB also met them regularly in the lobby cafe and restaurant.

The tournament was planned as an eight team tournament with two groups of four. Unfortunately the UAE withdrew it’s team, leaving a final 7-team tournament. The result, most likely, of recent political conflict between UAE & Qatar. Was not reported in any news media out here that MB saw. But many events do not see the light of day out these parts when the powers that be decide such matters are better not made public.

MB was initially surprised to see the Palestinian team on the tournament list. As Palestine is not recognised as a country in most of the western world. And MB was not aware that Palestine even had a national football team. But having looked it up subsequently, MB is now aware that FIFA recognised Palestine in 1998 and they are currently number 94 in the world football rankings. Shows what MB knows!

MB attended a number of the matches at the Qatar Sports Club stadium. QSC is actually a local football club and not some national venue as the name might suggest. The stadium has a capacity of 12,000 but on the occasion of the U17 games only a handful of team mentors and a few supporters were in attendance. So MB was free to roam around with his camera, except for some security guys who made life a little difficult for MB on occasion. But such is the purpose of security guys, MB guesses.

The level of skill and standard of play was exceptionally high. MB might see some of these kids in coming years playing in the top professional leagues in Europe. MB’s Sudan & Palestine favourite teams both lost out and did not make the semi final stage, boarding their planes home a few days back, while the top four places get sorted out this coming weekend.

MB has spent many years of his life involved with kids football so was in his comfort zone in the midst of it all. The kids were seriously into the photos. Like all football kids. For their facebook pages to show family and friends back home, mainly. MB presented his two favourite teams with flash drives containing hundreds of photos from their games on the morning of their departure. And said goodbye to all.

It struck MB many times during the week, as it has many times in MB’s past, that football is a great force for good throughout the world. A force that unifies kids and adults no matter their background or race or creed or colour. If MB’s Irish kids were here this week they would no doubt have mingled with the other kids during the week and talked of Messi & Ronaldo and their favourite teams in the Premiership and whether they support Barca or Madrid in Spain. And would have sent social media friend invites to many kids they never knew a few days previously. Just like many of the Arab kids did this week.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the world decided that in future all wars would be settled on the football field. Germany, for example, might enjoy more success in that scenario that they did historically in the alternative. (You are too cruel MB!). And what about allowing our U17 Arab kids to run the Arab countries for a year or two. Would they do better than the men of the older Arab generation? MB is 100% sure they would. Or what about allowing the women to rule the Arab world, together with the U17 footballers? Would be revolutionary MB. Sure would be. Fingers crossed!


Guess which photographer was presented with the flag of Sudan at the football tournament this week? And note the henna dye still on the fingernails of MB’s left hand, from his recent trip to the Sudan wedding.


Sudan 2 – 0 Palestine

Some pics from the game:



2 Comments on “The Unifying Force

  1. You’re in my corner of the ME now MB! Welcome! You’re so very right. It would be lovely to see unrest relegated to the football pitch. In’sh’allah.


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