Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Football Reflects Frozen Conflicts, but Seldom Transcends Them: A Three Part Case Study.

By Justin Paul

Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Cyprus

This is an examination of three intractable political conflicts on the European continent and how football has been a mere entrenchment of tension as opposed to a release valve to find space for moderate ground within divided communities. Football and Politics cannot be separated easily, and syrupy rhetoric about football uniting (as it did in the Ivory Coast briefly in 2006 before the World Cup) runs against numerous other examples, three of which are discussed here.

Part I: Fratricide in the South Caucasus, how a disputed territory of a Soviet Socialist Republic brought Armenia and Azerbaijan to war.

The first example is the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This is one of the grubby post Soviet conflicts mostly ignored in the west because of a difficulty to find good guys and bad guys, although the Armenian-American Diaspora played a huge role in assisting their brethren. The Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan was an autonomous region within the country during its Soviet period. However it had an Armenian majority population of around 70%, the majority of whom wanted independence with Armenia when the Soviet Union fell apart. In 1991, Azerbaijan was the scene of the Soviet Union’s only true civil war, when ethnic Azeri members of the OMON Special police unit deported many Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh in an attempt to disarm Armenian separatist militias on the sanction of Moscow.

Backed by her sisters and brothers from Armenia proper, a war was fought right after both countries declared independence from the USSR. Moderate Russian help was provided to the Armenians, who would succeed in not just winning control of Nagorno-Karabakh, but would go on to occupy a "buffer zone" amounting to 14% of Azerbaijan's territory. To make matters more interesting, the rebel leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh led by Robert Kocharyan would seize electoral control of Armenia. Imagine if Texans seized the White House right after their separatist war against Mexico, it truly was a paradigm shift and made Armenian policy towards Azerbaijan more hard-line. For Azerbaijan, losing Karabakh was a humiliation and a cultural crisis given that cities such as Shusha and Agdam were key cultural sites to Azeri identity. Comparisons to Serbia losing Kosovo are very close. There was a horrific massacre of Azeris in the city of Khojaly by Armenian troops, and there were pogroms against Armenians in Baku and Sumgayi. The "what about-ery" rhetoric between Azeris and Armenians resembles the claims traded back and forth between Irish Nationalists and Northern Unionists about various atrocities committed by paramilitary groups in the disputed region of the Island of Ireland.

There is a football club called FK Karabakh that was founded in Agdam. They don't play in their home city of Agdam of course but in Baku on the shores of the oil rich Caspian sea. This is because Azerbaijani's no longer live there, in fact almost no one lives in Agdam today, it is a ghost town policed by Armenian troops who keep it as part of a so-called buffer zone. FK Karabakh's success recently in Europa League has been astounding. In particular, their destruction of perennial Norwegian giants Rosenborg Trondheim was feat to be applauded. They then dispatched Finnish side FC Honka. The club's success has mirrored a climb in the domestic league. They have signed prominent Azerbaijan players such as Emin Imamaliev, who knows a thing or two about surprising clubs from Scandinavia. Imamaliev scored Azerbaijan's game winning goal against Finland on March 28, 2007, which was Azerbaijan's first win at home in years in a European qualifier.

FK Karabakh mix older talent like Aslan Kerimov, who is Azerbaijan's most capped player, with young starlets like Vagif Javadov, an ex-CSKA Moscow trialist. They also boasted the services of Atrim Sakiri in last season's campaign. Sakiri may have an interesting take on divided societies; he is one of the only ethnic Albanians to have signed up for the Macedonian national team (in a country where Albanians make up 25% of the population). Sakiri has had a journeyman career; he has played in Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Finland, Denmark, Liechtenstein, and England (West Bromwich Albion). Surely after all these frontiers, a journey to a refugee club on the Caspian Sea was the next stop. Sakiri is famous for his astounding goal against England straight from a corner kick (see video.) A foreign signing of his nature, even at age 36 represented a step up in ambition and resources for Karabakh. The club's success can be seen not only as a strong testament for Azerbaijan, but also a source of pride for a Karabakhstis who cannot return home due the occupation. However, this success must be analyzed across a richer context.

As losers of the war, Azerbaijan's hostility towards Armenia is high. Recently a row has erupted over local Azeris who voted for Armenia in the Eurovision song contest. Thirty-one (31) Azeris have been called in 3 months after the fact and questioned by the Interior Ministry. This event came a year and a half after matches between Azerbaijan and Armenia in European Qualifiers were canceled because Baku refused to guarantee the safety of Armenians in Baku. Yerevan did not make the same dubious proclamation of refusing to guarantee safety but UEFA still canceled both matches, a rather inequitable decision. So FK Karabakh's success may only serve to exacerbate tensions by bringing nationalism back to the fore. I want to note this is not a Christian v Muslim conflict. Azerbaijan has many Christians (although not Armenians-- mostly Russians) still in its borders, as well as a prominent two distinct Jewish minorities, one being Azeri Mountain Jews and the other being Slavic Jews (half Armenian/half Jewish chess superstar turned anti-Putin campaigner Gary Kasparov was born in Baku). Armenia, the world's first Christian nation, still enjoys strategic ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and many Iranian laborers work in Yerevan (including Iranian Azeris from Northern Iran).

In world football, Azerbaijan's national team is still a long way off from being world beaters. Yet, the Azerbaijan national side is quite cosmopolitan, much like Baku itself, and has featured two naturalized Brazilians Fabio Ramim and Ernani Perriera, two naturalized Ukrainians Sasa Yunisoglu (he is of half Azeri parentage) and Alexander Chertonagov, as well as one you don't see often, a naturalized Serb, Branimir Subaisic, albeit he recently announced his international retirement. Armenia meanwhile is on a high after their win over Belgium in the most recent World Cup qualifier. Armenia has also naturalized a prominent young Brazilian named Marcos Pizzeli. However Armenia shouldn't need to do this, as their real minefield ought to be their football rich diaspora. They have already signed up Belgian born Hirac Yagan (Standard de Liege), and it is possible that Uruguayan born Joquian Boghossian (Newell's Old Boys) and California's Yura Movsisyan of Real Salt Lake could be naturalized and capped later. Movsisyan was a Baku Armenian and came to the States because of the Karabakh conflict led to ethnic tension in the diverse Azeri capital. In early 90's Armenia were unable to snare French Armenians Alain Boghossian or Youri Djorkaeff (Djorkaeff is half Kalmyk as well, which means he has ancestry in the only indigenous Buddhist region on the European continent, but don't get me started on that). But now that Armenia have footballing infrastructure, the tune could change. For a region traumatized by exile and dispossession as Karabakh Azeris are, they can and should take solace in their club’s nice run of form. However, so long as the this conflict means the two national sides can’t play each other without threat of violence, the talk of football building bridges simply doesn’t match this South Caucasian reality.

Part II Moldova: Dire Poverty, the Separatist Anti-Politics of Soviet Factory Bosses, and Underwater Hockey Scandals.

Moldova has been viciously pilloried for its non-distinct history, and more recently for its dire poverty. Moldovan is a language highly similar to Romanian. The offbeat Russian English language news site The Exile has noted its men are underbid by poor North Africans and Albanians for construction projects in places like Spain and Portugal, while many of its women are forced out of destitution to work in brothels in places such as Cyprus and Turkey. Even more gruesome are the significant number of Moldovan men sell one kidney as a means of earning money.

Sport in Moldova is not free from the dire realities of economic stagnation. Moldovans generated headlines in Canada in 2003 when their national women's underwater hockey team filed for refugee status after entering Canada but failing to compete in any games at the tournament. Even if one wraps their head around the weirdness of underwater hockey hosting credible competitions, surely the idea that it could be used as a scheme to bypass immigration law further boggles the mind and acts as an anchor for the sinking prestige of women’s underwater hockey. None of these comments are meant to make light of Moldovan poverty, in fact this is why one looks for a positive expression of Moldovan identity in such a hideous period of economic under nourishment. The perennial Moldovan league champions Sheriff Tiraspol would seem to provide positive affirmation of Moldova at first glance, but not when you understand where Tiraspol is, and what its relation to the Republic of Moldova is.

Tiraspol is part of the breakaway republic of Transnistria that was once part of Moldova in the Soviet era. Unlike other post soviet conflicts (including the aforementioned Azerbaijan v Armenia and the most famous George v Abkhazia and S. Ossetia), this one has much less to do with ethnicity. The Dniester River divides Moldova from Transnistria, and Transnistria tends to be more heavily ethnic Russian and Ukrainian. Eastern European analyst Douglas Muir of the blog A Fistful Of Euros pointed out that it was Transnistrians who historically controlled Moldova during its days as a Soviet Socialist Republic. When you add in this, with a move in Moldova to make Moldovan a sole official language, and another movement from a rightist party to join Romania, one can understand why this conflict began. The fledgling Soviet state had no qualms on which side to support, it was their Slavic brethren in Transnistria who got weapons and logistical aid.

Out of this wreckage has emerged a state within a state run by a man who is a candidate for Slavic doppelganger of Sean Connery, whose Wikipedia page used to proudly boast about his meticulously groomed eyebrows. Igor Smirnov, the current breakaway president, is far from a Transnistrian native. He was in fact born in Kamachatka in Russia's Far East, and came to Moldova to manage an electronics factory in the 1970's. He has made separatism has life's work. Transnistria still had something of a functional economy, and for a time it even had a hard hitting English language newspaper called the Tiraspol Times. To some, Transnistria is all about illicit arms deals and Soviet style repression. The Tiraspol Times tended to focus on street art, break dancing, and the joy of Transnistrian youth, as well as one other badge of pride, FC Sheriff Tiraspol. Talk of Tiraspol having a ragingly fun and open youth culture may be just propaganda, but the success of FC Sheriff is no joke or distortion. The pro-separatist paper has since disbanded, but its Fox News parody style editorial headlines like "Igor Smirnov: Communist Strongman Or Courageous Independence Hero? We Report, You Decide" will live on in the minds of lovers of the convergence of the obscure, the erudite and the ironic. (Folks like me.)

To get back to football, Sheriff is a young club, having been founded only in 1997. Sheriff sprang from a same-named company founded in 1992 and according to Muir tend to own almost anything in Moldova not owned by the breakaway government or by Russian companies, including "supermarkets, filling stations, construction, publishing, its own TV and radio, and the football club." With a net worth estimated at over 2 billion US dollars, they have not refrained from spending on the football club. They co-exist with the government, and even briefly sponsored a political party, as Muir says perhaps agitating for a business state as opposed to a security state, making them more a government partner than a real opposition to Smirnov. The stadium FC Sheriff plays in is state of the art, and includes excellent training facilities too. While it is the nicest stadium in the country, the Moldovan national team would never play there for obvious reasons. Sheriff was also the first club in the league to sign players from South America, a big adjustment in which the most previous exotic foreigners were Ukrainians or Romanians. The club has also benefited from the decline of their Tiraspol rivals Tiligul-Tiras (who interestingly enough had Octavio Zambrano as their last ever coach). Since 2001, they have won every Moldovan title and 5 Moldovan cups. European success has been less steady. Dispatching Maltese, Andorran, Estonian, and Luxembourgian sides was never a problem. But it wasn't until this season's 1-1 away goal victory over Slavia Prague, that Sheriff defeated a proper mid sized European league club.

While a 3-0 shutout loss to Olympiakos made sure they would not progress to the group stages, they had opened their new account of European credibility. FC Sheriff’s success is surely not Moldova's, as their fans are known to taunt teams from the Moldovan side with calls for independence. While one could argue that by playing in the Moldovan league legitimizes Moldova's claim to the region, there is power counter punch to that claim. More salient is the fact that FC Sheriff is using its notoriety and leverage for a distinct form of separatism off the back of generally weak Moldovan league. Football in Moldova is a means to an end, and not a bridge to heal a divided society. When Sheriff puts goals in the back of the net they are doing so for a relatively repressive breakaway region that may use the rhetoric of self determination, but is subtly backing Slavic hegemony (which has included shutting down Moldovan language schools in its breakaway state).

Meanwhile, the last team from Moldovan territory to win the title, the capital city based Zimbru Chisinau is struggling to keep up with the high spenders from across the Dniestr. This should not be a surprise as Zimbru’s only real achievement when they played in a bigger pond, that being the Soviet League, was a Soviet Cup quarterfinal in 1963. That’s not exactly a tradition that inspires a state with high emigration and collapsed moral to wave a flag around. The most interesting thing about the Moldovan national team is Tony Hawks’s (no, not the skateboard guy) book “Playing the Moldovans at Tennis.” It was premised around a bet made in a London pub, in which Hawks bet a friend he could beat the entire Moldovan national side who had played in a match against England at tennis or else strip naked on a central London street and sing the Moldovan national anthem. The book zig-zags from Moldova proper to Transnistria to Northern Ireland and ends in Israel and is a smashing read. Sadly it seems Moldovan football outside Sheriff-land will be a long way from reaching recognition for any other reason in the near future.

Part III: Cyprus: An Island divided, with football being at the mercy of inter-communal violence.

Britons know Cyprus for its beautiful beaches and lush mountains (read Lawrence Durrell’s work if you want lyrical descriptions of one of the Mediterranean’s most gorgeous islands.) Cypriots know Brits as their former colonial overlords who pack kitschy resorts on both sides of the island, and who still control a military base on the island, a pound of flesh extracted after granting the country independence in 1964. Americans may know little more than Homer Simpson's joke calling Turks "Cyprus splitters." Americans may be intrigued to know that the Republic of Cyprus has the largest number of voters for a Communist Party of any EU country, around 30%, and the current Cypriot President is a Leningrad educated lawyer. The Republic of Cyprus, founded in 1960, is the entity that is in FIFA and has control over the southern two thirds of the island, is mostly Greek with small Armenian and Maronite minorities. The unrecognized Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is mainly (and obviously) Turkish. All the clubs in the Cypriot League are Greek Cypriot.

Last season saw an amazing feat with Anorthosis Famagusta advancing to the Champions League proper. Along the way they knocked out Olympiakos, causing no small stir as many Greek Cypriot fans also support clubs in the Greek League. Famagusta's story is inspiring in the sense that they were one of the victims of the Greek-Turkish tension that led to the 1974 Turkish intervention. Greeks will use the term "irredentist occupation," and Turks may use the term "peace operation." I find both these terms to be politically loaded and fundamentally unhelpful in evaluating the conflict. Famagusta is in the north part of the island of Cyprus and as such is now under Turkish Cypriot administration. Anorthosis has on its club emblem, the picture of a phoenix. This is very fitting because the club was reborn after forced partition of the island in southern city of Larnaca. However, because the Greek population of Famagusta has been refugees, the club essentially boasts a supporter’s base that runs the entirety of the south of the island.

Anorthosis were a key source of pride for Greek Cypriots when they defeated Turkish club Trabzonspor in 2005, and event that was marred by the Republic of Cyprus’s refusal to let any journalist from Turkey into the country. In the 2008 campaign a team full of journeyman such as Frenchman Cedric Bardon (ex-Lyon and ex-Rennes) Brazilian Savio (ex-Real Madrid and Real Zaragoza) and Montenegrin Sinisa Dobrasinovic (ex- Lokeren-- okay so that one's not as impressive) combined with Iraqi Kurdish star Hawar Mulla Mohammed (there is a bond between Greek Cypriots and Kurdish Nationalists due to shared animosity to Turkey) to put on a spirited campaign. Their 3-3 draw with Inter Milan at home, as well as a defeat of Panathinaikos, was highlights. Their coach was Temuri Ketsbaia, the feisty Georgian known for his spirited playing career at Newcastle United and his infamous decision to kick down advertising boards after a goal at Bolton. Ketsbaia used his success as a springboard to a job at Olympiakos that lasted only a month, despite the team not allowing a goal in any game he managed. Anorthosis's success proved an exciting run, but it hardly did anything for cross community relations in football.

This is precisely because most Turkish Cypriots have no reason to support a Greek Cypriot team. Independence from Great Britain was achieved by a largely nationalist center right organization called EOKA (the national union of Cypriot fighters). EOKA did not initially want independent Cyprus; they wanted union with Greece (enosis). Turkish Cypriots feared they would be expelled as happened when to Turkish speakers on Crete in the late 1890’s. In a unique paradigm, it was rightists urging armed resistance, but the Cypriot left that urged peaceful demonstrations against British rule. At the same time, smaller numbers of Turkish Cypriots urged Taksim, or union with Turkey. Football was not a shared space for both communities to spend time together, the trade unions in fact the only bi-ethnic part of Cypriot society. The first president of Republic of Cyprus was, Archbishop Makarios III, who has the distinction of being the last Ethnarch of any democratic state (head of Church and head of State). The fact that he failed to unite Cyprus with Greece was a crushing blow to many Greek Cypriot nationalists.

Under his rule there was failure to uphold power sharing institutions for the Turkish Cypriot minority, who were supposed to be “equal partners” in the 1960 constitution. There were attacks on the Turkish Cypriot quarter of Nicosia that would remind some Northern Ireland Catholic communities of their experience in the 1960’s. Due to combination of intimidation and in some cases community pressure most Turkish Cypriots were living in isolated enclaves by 1964. To his credit, Makarios not a petty nationalist on foreign affairs, and was part of the non aligned movement. However this led nationalist Greeks and American backers to regard him as some kind of Greek Orthodox clerical version of Castro, a bizarre claim.

The 1974 coup against Makarios was led by the Greek fascist junta which seized power in Greece back in 1967 and was subtly backed by the United States. The first target of the coup makers, who called themselves EOKA B was the Greek Cypriot left, and then in theory the Turkish Cypriots. They didn't get that far as a Turkish intervention toppled the coup makers. However, as has been noted by shrewd observers like Christopher Hitchens (this is in his pre neo-con phase), there was not one invasion of Cyprus but two, the first being on July 20, 1974 and resulted in fascist governments losing power in both Cyprus and Greece. The second invasion after the Greek Cypriot coup government collapsed on August 14, 1974 is what set the ground for partition. It wouldn’t be until 1983, when a formal Turkish Cypriot state was self-declared in the north.

In earlier times, there was a mixed ethnic football league, but it was dominated by Greek Cypriot sides. Cetinkaya SK was the only Turkish Cypriot club to have ever won the mixed league, doing so in 1951. Founded in 1934 as Lefkosa Turk Spor Kulubu, they were the only Turkish Cypriot club in the original Cypriot League. In a telling sign however Cetinkaya and another Turkish Cypriot club withdrew from the Cypriot League in 1955 and founded their own league. So, sadly the division of Cypriot football occurred while the island was still part of Britain’s empire and was not a reaction to the 1974 war. While 1955 was a time of inter communal violence, the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriot was not the result of a singular sectarian event, such as the pitch invasion in 1949 that ended Belfast Celtic's time in the Irish League.

The Cyprus Turkish Football Federation has never been recognized by FIFA but still holds league and cup competitions and organizes a national team. The Turkish side of Nicosia/Lefkosa boasts a 28,000 seat stadium. It is very much the issue of recognition that hampers Turkish Cypriots. The Republic of Cyprus has run a relentless campaign to keep the northern third of the island in isolation. Drawing dubious comparisons to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Cyprus has long secured the support of much of the Arab world in maintaining isolation and will even send charm offensive delegations to obscure nations like Kyrgyzstan to prevent direct transit links to North Cyprus (the Kyrgyz had wanted to run direct flights there). The only way to get to Turkish North Cyprus is to fly though Turkey. The Turkish Cypriot national football team naturally is never going to be recognized by FIFA and as such must entertain itself with games against such sides as Sapmi (team of the Sami people of Nordic Europe), Kosovo, Occitania, Crimean Tatarstan, and Zanzibar. In 1980, they did get matches with FIFA members Malaysia, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, but those had to be played in Turkey.

As far as club friendlies go, as late as 1985, there were still visiting non-Turkish sides, most famously when Cetinkaya vanquished Dinamo Bucharest in what was an important psychological boost and sporting achievement for the club. Such a visit today would be unthinkable due to the strength of the current embargo and Greek Cypriot lobbying. With the embargo affecting Turkish Cypriots, it should be no surprise that the most prominent Turkish Cypriot footballer of recent time is Muzzy Izzet, a London bred ex-Leicester City player who starred internationally for Turkey. The Cypriot divide also has an effect in London, which boasts sizeable Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, an effect of past colonialism. When Mete Ahmed, a Turkish Cypriot Londoner waved a TRNC flag at Emirates Stadium in 2007 it sparked outrage from Greek Cypriot supports of the Gunners. They signed a petition for it to be banned, but eventually what happened was an outright ban on any and all national flags at the Emirates Stadium. The petition was notable for including some racist anti-Turkish Cypriot attacks by some signees, and the fact that all flags were banned showed Arsenal didn’t want to have to negotiate between its Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot supporters.

If the diasporas are at absolute loggerheads, back in Cyprus itself there are small green shoots of reconciliation. In his book Outcasts: the Lands FIFA forgot, British journalist Steve Menary mentioned that Turkish Cypriot Sabri Selden signed for Greek Cypriot club Nea Salamina in 2002 and was followed by his brother Raif. At the time Selden was decried to be of “weak moral character” by then Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktas, and there were some Greek Cypriots that tried to co-opt this signing for their political tool. Nea Salamina is a left wing club with roots in Famagusta, and they would later sign another Turkish Cypriot named Coskun Ulusoy. According to Menary, Ulusoy said he did not receive much in the way of abuse from club fans, but did receive it from right wing Greek Cypriot clubs. Because of Nea Salamina’s North Cyprus roots, some of their Greek fan base has some knowledge of Turkish and have been congenial to their Turkish Cypriot players. However, the fact that North Cyprus is so isolated means it will be reliant on Turkey and will adopt Turkey’s sporting culture. Watching Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, or Besiktas is more common than supporting local football. While Greek Cypriots may support Greek clubs, they have the advantage of nurturing their own reasonably profitable football culture from their national team and league. An unrecognized state in the north simply can’t provide similar sporting and cultural badges of pride.

Meanwhile this year's Greek Cypriot entry in the Champions League Group Stage, APOEL Nicosia has a strong right wing nationalist past. Their leadership was infamous for sending a telegram to the Hellenic Athletic Association and wishing them that the "rebellion" (leftist insurgency) would finish. It was this strong political statement that led left wing members of APOEL to secede and found Omonia Nicosia. The two clubs share a ground, but have no love lost as this political divide is still huge in Greek Cyprus and was exacerbated after the 1974 Greek Cypriot coup d’etat. Omonia fans are generally associated with AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People, and Marxist-Leninist in origin), which is the current ruling party in the Republic of Cyprus. In the 1950's many APOEL players were involved in EOKA, fighting the British, and prominent member of their track and field section Michalis Karaolis became the first EOKA fighter hung by the British in 1956. So many APOEL players were involved in the armed rightist struggle against Britain that the club was almost relegated during that era due to losing so many key players. It should be noted the original EOKA, while nationalist, was not a fascist group like EOKA B was during the 1974 coup. Even still, the original EOKA were fighting against Britain to join Greece, not for a pluralist and independent Cyprus.

Current talks to unite Cyprus are stalled and initial optimism that Cypriot President Dmitiris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat might find middle ground on the basis of their shared leftist past have dimmed. It is easier to cross the divided capital city of Nicosia than it was at any time in history, but there still is a divided capital city in an EU member state. Greek Cypriots are outraged by Anatolian Turkish settlers being moved in to North Cyprus and the Turkish military presence in North Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are outraged by the humiliating isolation and Greek Cypriots lack of accountability for their mistreatment of the Turkish Cypriot minority in the 14 years that a united island existed as an independent country. Unless a comprehensive solution is found to create a unified pluralist and truly bi-national Cypriot state, football will be a tool of nationalism. The Cyprus national team will continue representing solely Greek Cypriot interests, and football in the North becoming more low profile as fans cheer for Turkey and Turkish Super Lig clubs as their own league is isolated and the national side is forced to play non-FIFA teams.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, great stuff, but the post is a little long for this format, I think. Might be better to break it down even further or have a cross post somewhere?

1:40 PM  
Anonymous DDT5583 said...

Brilliant article. Given the tribal nature of much team loyalty, it's not really that surprising that it often times represents exclusion and intolerance rather than common efforts. One need look no further than Glasgow, really.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous MelH said...

I love this kind of stuff... Great read

4:22 PM  
Blogger brucio said...

I thought long and hard about breaking this into the 3 parts, but in the end i figured if it was too much to read at one time you could always just come back to it.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Super Rookie said...

Nice job, Justin.

Thanks for the story about Azer and Armenia.


4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!. This is the most accurate article about Armenia and Azerbajans conflict I've read.
Greate job. All other articles are either propaganda or full of errors.
As an Armenian I must add that, the Kharabagh was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin durring Soviet years. It was never part of an independent Azerbaijan and had always armenian majority in population. It was part of old Armenian Kindoms.
Azeries started a war against Karabagh in respond to peacefull and legal demands for independance and lost it.
Now superpowers are exploiding this by getting cheap oil contracts and selling their junk weapons to Azeries.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

Great stuff. A Turkish teammate and friend of mine was stationed in North Cyprus in 2007/08 during his compulsory military service. He was happy to be stationed there because it was better than fighting the Kurds in Iraq...

Football as a vehicle for nationalism is really interesting. But you dont need to go to cyprus to find it, or glasgow. Hell, I play in a league in Milwaukee and the clubs are called Croatian Eagles SC (my team, though I am of german/irish decent), Serbians SC, United Serbians, Club Latino, Bavarian FC, Milwaukee Sport Club (who's home ground is the Schwabenhoff), Polonia... the list goes on.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous real estate Richmond BC said...

Great stuff to read. In my opinion, football can be seen from two points of view. Firstly, it can be seen as a tool for meeting two culturally different nations on the neutral ground. This should lead to peaceful skidding. On the other hand, there are always groups of people who try to violate the situation. I think this is dangerous and should be eliminated.


8:30 AM  

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