Category Archives: Support and Protest

Pinochet and the King of the square metre


Damiano Benzoni

On July 5th, 1950, Carlos Caszely was born in Santiago. A Chilean forward of Hungarian descent, he would win five league titles and three cups of Chile with Colo-Colo between 1970 and 1985. His ability in the box would gain him the nickname el Rey del metro cuadrado, the King of the square metre. In 1973 he played the Copa Libertadores final against Independiente: after two draws in Avellaneda and Santiago, the match was solved in a desempate in Montevideo. Independiente won 2-1, scoring the decider in extra-time, but Caszely had scored his side’s equaliser in the first half and became the competition’s top-scorer. He would play 49 times for the national team, scoring 29 goals. He was voted best player in the 1979 Copa América, when Chile lost in the final against Eugenio Morel and Julio César Romero’s Paraguay. At the 1974 World Cup, in the opening match against the hosting nation, West Germany, he became the first ever player to receive a red card, as the card system had just been introduced by FIFA. Continue reading

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A Spring final

Damiano Benzoni

With two minutes remaining, Ahmed Fathi finds el-Sayed Hamdi in the box and serves him. Hamdi kicks low, in the angle goalie Chrifia can’t reach. Al-Ahly has just evened scores with Espérance, whose Walid Hichri had scored the opener from a corner, in the first minutes of the second half. The match is the first leg of the African Champions League final, played the other night and finished in a 1-1 draw at the Borg el-Arab Stadium in Alexandria. Al-Ahly can be pleased at avoiding a loss in the finishing minutes, while Espérance can tame its disappointment with the comfort of having scored an away goal. The return leg will be played in two weeks at the Stade Olympique de Radès, in Tunisia. Al-Ahly and Espérance Sportive de Tunis are the most titled teams of their respective countries, as the former won thirty-six Egyptian league titles and thirty-five cup titles, while the latter won twenty-four Tunisian league titles and fourteen cup titles. Al-Ahly is also the most titled team in the continent as regards the CAF Champions League, a trophy the team has won six times between 1982 and 2008. Espérance, the winner in the past edition, had previously won the tournament only once, in 1994. Continue reading

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Tajikistan: All the president’s son’s men

Photo: Футбол Тоҷикистон

Damiano Benzoni

Rustam Èmomalī used to be a striker for two-time Tajik champions Istiķlol Dušanbe, a team of which he has been captain, president, owner and founder. In November 2010 he was named vice-president of the Tajik FA and later was unanimously voted president. He is part of the FIFA Committee for Development and is the representative of Tajikistan at the Asian Olympic Council. In 2011 he left his political party in order to take up a post as the head of the state customs agency department responsible for fighting smuggling and custom violations: a huge responsibility since Tajikistan is crossed by traffic of heroin and opiates coming from bordering Afghanistan. In the past he was a member of the Dušanbe city council, a counsellor for the State Committee on Investments and State Property, a member of the executive committee of the ruling party and a deputy chairman of the Youth Union – the organisation which took the place of the Soviet Komsomol. Rustam Èmomalī is the son of Èmomalī Rahmon, the authoritarian president of Tajikistan. According to some observers, he’s his designed heir. Continue reading

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Fistfights, kicks and the Ukrainian elections

Damiano Benzoni

From Euro 2012 to the elections: the big event for Ukraine, after the Spaniards won their Kiev final against Italy, has become the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 28th. It will be a crucial election for the Verchovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, and it will be played between the danger for electoral fraud and the tug of war played by the West and Russia on the former Soviet republic. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, at a conference in Jalta last week both parts put Ukraine back up against the wall. On one hand, the EU and the US are asking for a clear acceleration of the stagnating democratic progress of the country and for a solution to the situation of former prime minister Julija Tymošenko, whose imprisonment is seen as a move masterminded by president Viktor Janukovyč to sideline a dangerous political opponent. On the other hand Moscow, leveraging on the high energy costs Ukraine has to face, is trying to force Kiev into joining the Eurasiatic Union. Continue reading

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Egypt behind closed doors

Damiano Benzoni

In the 79th minute Mohamed Aboutreika unevened the score: he rose up between two Zamalek defenders and headed the cross of his team-mate Abdallah el-Said, sending it behind the shoulders of the goalie Abdelwahed el-Sayed. Aboutreika scored the winner for al-Ahly in the Cairo derby, taking “the people’s team” on top of group B of the CAF Champions League and leaving Zamalek bottom of the pool, behind the Ghanaians of Berekum Chelsea and the Congolese of TP Mazembe. Strangely enough for one of the most heated derbies in the world, nobody was there to cheer, and Aboutreika’s goal was welcomed by a deafening silence: for the first time in a ninety-year history, the Egyptian derby was played behind closed doors, with only journalists, photographers, commentators and officials attending. Continue reading

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