Bahraini sports clubs have dismissed at least 12 sports people and executives, including two of the country’s top soccer players, because they participated in anti-government demonstrations. The dismissals are widely believed to have occurred at the behest of the government.
Al Alhli confirmed the firing of national soccer team striker Ala'a Hubail and his brother Mohammed in a statement. The dismissal followed a Bahrain TV broadcast that showed the brothers among anti-government demonstrators.
Ala'a was nicknamed Golden Boy when he became the first Bahraini to win the Golden Boot award for scoring five goals during the 2004 Beijing Asian Cup.
The sacking came five days after Al Ahli pulled out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Clubs Championship, saying that the protests had prevented many players from attending training sessions.
The Bahrain Olympic Committee last month postponed for the second time the first edition of the GCC Games until September because of the island’s political turmoil. The Olympic committee made no mention of the protests, justifying the delay instead by saying it gave Gulf sportspeople more time to prepare for the games.
Bahrain has cracked down on protesters and invited troops from fellow Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, to help it maintain law and order. Scores have been killed and wounded in the protests.
James M. Dorsey is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer