Craig Foster: Case of Hakeem Al-Araibi Became Battle for Soul of Sport

2019-02-05 - 6:51 م

Bahrain Mirror: Former Australian captain Craig Foster said that Bahrain's timing of its unjust demand to the Thai court to extradite Hakeem Al-Araibi demonstrates the contemptuousness with which Bahrain has treated international sport throughout the travesty of justice.

Foster indicated in an article published in The Guardian on Sunday (February 3, 2019) that on the day of the 2019 Asian Cup final, under the auspices of Fifa and in the presence of its president, Gianni Infantino, the Bahrain government's iniquitous extradition order was submitted to a court hearing by Thai authorities.

He pointed out that the prime minister of Thailand, General Prayut Chan-Ocha, has discretion throughout to reject this politically motivated, retributive case at any time. "We continue to urge him to do so in the interests of Thailand's international reputation and stated commitment to international law," he added.

AFC president Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa's statements said that he felt able to recuse himself from the most basic obligation of any football official to protect a player's human rights "The message was clear: we are above international law, and above Fifa".

Bahrain responded by effectively declaring war on international sport, on the day their regional confederation held its showpiece event, in which Al-Araibi should have been participating had he not been incarcerated, tortured and convicted in absentia some years ago, in an indication to finals of  AFC Asian Cup held recently in UAE.

Foster stated: "This has now become a battle for the soul of all sport and the question is: how does football and the Olympic movement respond?"

He went on to say that Fifa has requested a meeting with the prime minister of Thailand, to no avail. Pressure must be maintained on both sides but it is clear the power lies with Bahrain.

The challenge for Infantino and Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, is to ensure the principles of sport that we sell to the world.

These values reside in Al-Araibi, a human rights defender and brave young man, and present the most severe challenge to the world's two major sporting bodies in recent memory.

"It is Bahrain who have sought to have Al-Araibi refouled, who have pressured the Thai government to acquiesce, and who have shown the world their law is above that of the international community of nations," Foster wrote.

He said in his article "And the world needs to understand very clearly both the dynamics of this case, and the challenge it represents to the foundations of global sport. Al-Araibi has become a symbol of hope and that is the most dangerous quality of all for those who seek to maintain rule."

"Nothing is going to stop this process without the most strenuous response from international sport and governments because ultimately, this is not about extradition, it is about control, authority and retribution."

"Sport will need to reevaluate its priorities, immediately," Foster noted.

The Australian Craig Foster also indicated that Sheikh Salman was implicated in the crackdown of athletes in 2011-12, as was head of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, and yet, ruinously, they sit in positions of immense prestige and authority in global sport.

"And now it is time for sport to pay the price. An athlete and football player may be sacrificed against international legal norms to exert authority, against every value that sport stands for," he commented.

"Sport has not faced such a challenge under the tenure of Infantino and Bach, who will each be defined by the response they make. Either they will override all political and economic considerations and consider the suspension of both nations from the international sporting community, or the new reality of world sport will cost a young man's freedom and rights, perhaps even his life."

Arabic Version