Category Archives: War

Benghazi clashes, match moved to Tripoli

Photo: Michael Aron

Damiano Benzoni

Football normalisation in Libya encounters its first halt after the National team played its first International in two years on home soil on June 7th. The match against Togo scheduled at the Martyrs of February stadium in Benina, in the Benghazi region, on June 14th will be played in Tripoli instead after a protest against armed militias in the city of Benghazi turned into a clash between protesters and militias which took a death toll of 31. Similar protests took place, without incidents, in the rest of the country, under the slogan “Elections create legitimisation, arms create a dictatorship”. According to a Benghazian interviewed by William Wheeler of the Global Post, “what happened was tragic, but necessary—the only thing […] that [will] finally strip the mask off the militias masquerading as legitimate authorities”. Continue reading

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Libya’s coming home

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Damiano Benzoni

Football’s coming home: after two years of absence caused by the civil war that brought down the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, this week Libya will be back to play official football matches on home soil. Libya, which was allowed by FIFA to host matches again in March, will play its first post-war home internationals on June 7th and 14th, in two qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Halfway through Group I, Libya is still unbeaten and is second in the table, one point behind Cameroon. In the first match, the Libyans will take on DR Congo at the June 11th Stadium in Tripoli, while a week later they will face Togo in the stadium of Benina, previously entitled to the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavéz and now devoted to the memory of the Martyrs of February, the victims of the Libyan civil war. Continue reading

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Step’anakert is well worth a match

The Step’anakert Stadium – Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackwych/

Damiano Benzoni

The two teams enter the field, their flags ahead of them. On the right the home teams’ red, blue and orange tricolour with a white zig-zag chevron, on the left the seven alternate green and white stripes with a red canton depicting a white hand and seven stars, the flag of the guests. Then, the teams align themselves for the national anthems. The green jerseys of Abkhazia sing Aiaaira, “Victory”, while the red jerseys of the hosts Nagorno-Karabakh sing Azat ow ankax Arc’ax, “Free and Independent Arc’ax (or Artsakh)”, referring to the ancient name of their nation when – between 189 b.C. and 387 A.D. – it used to be a province of the Kingdom of Armenia. On the terrace, some supporters hold a banner: UEFA, we also want to play football. The two squads are the national teams of two de facto independent unrecognised countries. Two countries fighting to have their sovereignty recognised by the international community. Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh mutually recognise each other and have such agreement with two other post-Soviet breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Transnistria. While Abkhazia is also recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, Nagorno-Karakakh isn’t recognised by any UN member. Continue reading

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Under the shadow of five rings

Photo: David Byrd

Damiano Benzoni

They already got underway yesterday, with the football tournament, tomorrow they’ll be off to their official start: the Olympic Games of London 2012 will see more than ten thousand athletes from all over the world competing with each other. Two hundred and five flags will parade at the British capital’s Olympic Stadium, representing all the nations involved in the event. The parade is traditionally opened by the Greek delegation, which will be led by its flag-bearer Alexandros Nikolaidis, two-time Olympic silver, one-time European champion in taekwondo and first torch-carrier at the Beijing 2008 Games. The Olympic Committees will then parade one after the other in alphabetic order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The Parade of Nations – as of tradition – is closed by the hosting delegation, and the last flag-bearer will be the Scottish track cyclist Chris Hoy, four Olympic golds. Between Iceland and India four athletes should parade without a national standard, walking behind the five rings of the Olympic flag instead. Continue reading

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