Is the UAE a reasonable risk?

Discussion in 'Youth National Teams' started by anderson, Aug 9, 2002.

  1. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I’m sure normal people watch Friends and ER on Thursday instead of MSNBC and CNN, but this is what happens when a soccer obsessive thinks about the Middle East:

    :rolleyes:

    Let’s assume the US U-20s qualify for the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates next Mar. 25 -Apr. 16.

    Given the war on terrorism, the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and a potential US conflict with Iraq, which may or may not be over by then, FIFA probably wishes this tournament were scheduled someplace else. But what about the US delegation in particular - is it a good idea to send a couple dozen Americans to the UAE under these circumstances?

    From a soccer standpoint, it’s obviously a good thing. But what do we think about the security risks? I’m sure we’ll get the UAE’s best security efforts, but the relevant question is whether we're comfortable with those efforts. Isn’t it probably reasonable to assume that UAE security isn’t quite in the same league as Korean security? I think it’s a question that a few people at the USSF will consider at some point. Seems to me that it’s probably worth the risk, but I’m just curious if anyone has any other thoughts.
     
  2. The UAE isn't exactly a liberal democracy. You can count on everything necessary getting locked down. Of course, Sadat was killed by his own "loyal" men while reviewing his troops, so anything is possible.
     
  3. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    True enough, although, as you point out, authoritarianism alone doesn‘t ensure a competent state security apparatus.

    I don’t mean to sound alarmist - it’s not like I’ve changed my own travel habits and so forth. But I think that having an event in the UAE should raise a higher level of concern than would be warranted in say, Korea.

    UAE security reportedly detained one of the eventual 9-11 highjackers on a request from the US, interrogated him, and then let him go on his way. Reports over the last few months also indicate that the UAE played a central role in al-Qaeda's money flows. Hopefully, they've gotten their act together, but their record doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
     
  4. Sandon Mibut

    Sandon Mibut Member+

    Feb 13, 2001
    A couple a thoughts -


    *First, by not going, it sends the message that chaos and fear created by terrorism can keep us from showing up. While it's easy to say this when it's not ky kids who are going there and being put at risk, I think it sends a bad message if we simply don't show up for security reasons. Not a bad soccer message but a bad message about America. And, I'm pretty damn sure W and Rumsfeld and the rest of those guys don't want to send the message that we're scared. It just sets a bad precedent.

    *Second, while I'm sure the UAE will have plenty of security, you can bet your ass that Dan Flynn and Dr. Bob will coordinate with the State Department, FBI and Defense Department to ensure that some of "our guys" are on the ground and taking care of the 20s and the delegation. In Korea there were supposedly a lot of plain-clothesed American Special Ops and security types for the World Cup team and I'm sure that will be the case in UAE. Further, I bet the USSF dips into its pocket and hires some extra private security as well.

    *It's gonna suck for the boys. I'm guessing they're gonna be confined to their hotels and not going to get to go out much. Granted, there probably isn't nearly as much to do when you go out as compared to, say, Argentina, but it's still better than being confined to the hotel, which is what I bet will happen with Rongen's team. Dealing with boredom will be a challenge for Rongen and his staff and team chemistry will need to be good.

    *Speaking of sucking, you have to feel for the families of the 84s in terms of watching their sons in a World Championship. Last year they were all set to go to T&T for the U17 deal when 9/11 happened and closed the airports and none of the parents could make it to Tobago. Now they have the UAE and all the security concerns that come with it to deal with. Not the most pleasant string of circumstances.

    *While I don't want to risk anyone's life for a chance to get good PR for soccer, the fact is that this will be a good chance for soccer to get some good publicity as I'm sure that a team of clean-scrubbed American boys (and Santino!) going over to a tiny Muslim country in the Persian Gulf to play in a world championship in the midst of the war on terrorism is gonna generate some mainstream media coverage and exposure for the team internationally and that will only be good for the sport. Granted, it's not worth it if it means harm comes to any of the players but if you assume that security is gonna be tighter than a tick's ass, it's worth the risk.

    *Finally, there's the soccer equation to consider. This is a great experience for these young players, most of whom will be young pros and it is a good evaluator for them to see where they are in terms of a pro career and in terms of the Olympics (which will also be a security nightmare) and even the national team. In terms of their development, playing in this tournament is important and as long as the security is taken care of, they should go.
     
  5. GersMan

    GersMan Member

    May 11, 2000
    Indianapolis
    Sandon speaks truth. The team needs to be there.

    (if we make it through qualifying that is - and we will).
     
  6. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer New Member

    Sep 3, 1999
    I'd thought about this before. I hope they have all the security that they can possibly have--too much doesn't really exist in this case IMHO. You can bet your arse that the terrorists know all about this event and would be after not only our team, but the French and English teams also(should they go). If I'm not mistaken there were plots in '98 to kill the English, French and Yank teams.

    If I were a player I think I'd want a whole Army unit on my floor and the hotel to be constantly searched for bombs--don't forget about that detail. Unfortunately all it takes is a pay off to the right person for someone to get access to the hotel.
     
  7. I remember that plot report getting rubbished soon after it became news. Some blowhard made this one up.
     
  8. Elninho

    Elninho Member+

    Sacramento Republic FC
    United States
    Oct 30, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    Club:
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I lived in the UAE for almost half of my life, and played in the Al-Nasr Dubai youth team, so I may be able to shed some light on the issue. (I think I'm in a better position to comment than most Americans who get their information from news reports.)

    While it is true that a lot of Al-Qaeda money flowed through the UAE, it was not because it's a fundamentalist Islamic state, but because it's the Arab equivalent of Switzerland. The economy is very laissez-faire, and UAE banks, like their Swiss counterparts, are known for their confidentiality. The Russian mafia apparently relies heavily on the UAE banking system for hush-hush transactions, and many tinpot dictators in Asia and the Middle East funnel money to UAE bank accounts instead of Swiss bank accounts.

    A note I'd like to make is that Al-Qaeda generally had difficulty finding recruits in the UAE - it was a convenient place to put money, and I understand that it is fairly easy to forge UAE passports, but there simply weren't many fundamentalists around. As a society, the UAE is more liberal and Westernized than most Arab states. The current crown prince of Dubai is known to be more fluent in English than in Arabic. Make of that what you will.
     
  9. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Elninho, thanks very much for the insights. I certainly value your assessments more than a random talking head on MSNBC. I worked for about seven years with a lot of energy industry folks who traveled frequently to Dubai on business and they also basically say there’s not much to worry about. We all hope that’s the case.

    Of course, none of the 9-11 guys were from the UAE, but, as you point out, it’s precisely issues like the ease of getting fake documents, such as passports, and moving about the country undetected that one would think the security folks would worry about. One doesn’t have to be paranoid to wonder whether al-Qaeda operatives from say Saudi or Egypt might have an easier time evading the authorities in Dubai than in Helsinki or Rostock. Ultimately, it’ll depend on the competence and commitment of the local security authorities and how well they work with US intelligence. What are your thoughts in that regard?

    Sandon, I think there’s a lot to be said for the precedent argument. This issue will obviously arise more in the near future than it did in the recent past and the USSF will have to develop a coherent and sensible policy. But, in any event, I also think we can distinguish the UAE, or any Gulf state, from most other states in which the USSF may send delegations in the foreseeable future. The political and security concerns in the Arab states, and the Middle East more generally, are very different from those in most of Europe and Latin America.

    Of the states to which the USSF may send a delegation in the next few years, only Peru, host of the next Copa America, presents even remotely similar concerns. Peru has a long-standing battle with leftist guerillas. It looked like things had largely calmed in Peru over the last ten years, but a Sendero Luminoso car bomb in Lima last May - three days before a visit by Bush - raises some old concerns. Colombia had similar concerns during the last Copa America, but things went fine for the most part, so who knows.

    The point is that the UAE provides al-Qaeda with a far easier environment in which to plan an attack on a very visible US target (USSF delegation plus media and families, if any) whose location (team hotel) and movements (to and from the stadiums, practices) will be highly predictable. Al-Qaeda in the UAE is a much different matter than the Sendero Luminoso in Peru.

    I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate here, as I think it's still worth going if security concerns can be worked out satisfactorily - but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk argument in favor of going.
     
  10. thacharger

    thacharger New Member

    May 19, 2002
    Southaven, MS
    Can we expect UAE to provide tight security? What about the airports? Is it easy to get in or strict? I dont know how it has been since you have been there, but any insight you could shed would help ease some fears Im sure.
     
  11. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer New Member

    Sep 3, 1999
    Oh. I thought they were true. What about Dutch police stuffing a ploy by Algerian terrorists to kill the French national team at Euro 2000? Or was that indeed at the WC in '98? Or made up?
     
  12. eneste

    eneste Member

    Mar 24, 2000
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I echo what Elninho says about the UAE. Well at least I've heard the same from my friend whose dad lives in Dubai training horses. It is probably the most westernized of the Arab states and if you have the money it can be one of the most fun places in the world. Frankly I would be more worried about the boys going to Saudi Arabia than the UAE.
     
  13. Sevin

    Sevin Member

    May 24, 2001
    U.S.
    I think they are changing the tournament to Burma.
     
  14. turnaround

    turnaround New Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    Why the heck would FIFA host a tournament in UAE anyway?
     
  15. Elninho

    Elninho Member+

    Sacramento Republic FC
    United States
    Oct 30, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    Club:
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Myanmar's worse than the UAE for an international competition involving the United States.
     
  16. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

    I don't know exactly when the host for this tourney was selected, but probably well before 9-11.

    To be fair, various Gulf and other Middle Eastern states have hosted AFC events without any problems.

    Saudi also hosted the first three Confederations Cups - although I think the first two were called the Intercontinental Championship and weren't official FIFA events. The US even attended the inaugural event, but the world was a very different place in 92.
     
  17. listentobobmarley

    Jan 5, 2001
    I would be scured. But Id still go.
     
  18. Go2NY

    Go2NY New Member

    Feb 19, 2000
    Croton-on-Hudson NY
    not necessarily dangerous

    my state department friend suggests

    Intelligent pr savvy terrorists, and there are a some, understand there are many among the 203 countries of all kinds and sizes that perceive soccer to be much higher calling than the violent branch of islam

    he's thinking, the horrendously negative publicity such terrorists would receive even among their own people from a world commanding publicity soccer incident event would most likely make it a non starter.

    very tough for them to raise funds or receive international support of any kind resulting from this kind of big time negative international reaction

    he notes the barberians who caused the israeli athlete murders at the munich olympics became internationally detested and loathed by nearly the entire word - and bottom line - achieved nothing but gratuitous killing and ugly reputations

    however, he adds, a small group of independent maverick terrorists could perhaps mount a small but ugly challenge, but they don't have the recources to wage a successful incident under the super security conditions that will be in place

    difficult subject, we all agree, with no guarantees, but no need for us to over react - probability of an incident is reasonably low, perhaps - my friend opines - chances are low to nil

    just in case, my personal comment - if you come to new york and visit saint patties cathedral in, light a candle for the u.s. team - perhaps you'll cause them to make the semis

    be careful - stay positive...
     
  19. Excape Goat

    Excape Goat Member+

    Mar 18, 1999
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    As stated by Elninho..... there are nothing wrong with UAE.

    I had never been to UAE, but travelled through as a transit passenger a few times. The Dubai international airport is a major transit point between Europe and the Far East. I think they just finished a new airport that supposingly is one of the best in the world. Anyway, Emirates Air is voted as one of the top two or three airline in the world.

    The Dubai Duty Free Store in the airport is famious for their lucky draw. The chance of winning a Porsche is very high(liked once every 100th ticket). A business associate of mine from Israel actually won two Porsches 911 from them in two different draw. His job required him to travel between Europe, Israel and Asia. Dubai is the logical choice for transit. He goes through Dubai once per month. I don't know what passport he holds.... but I did ask him about an Israeli travelling through UAE. His answer was.... everybody does it. I don't think he is allowed to enter the country. When I asked him about his Israeli citizenship and travelling through

    Dubai is also known as the "sin city" of the Middle East. By Western standard, the city is just another city, but it is still the place where the weathly Middle Easterners enjoy the "sins" of the Western civilization. Tourism is actually big in Dubai.
     
  20. Chesco United

    Chesco United Member+

    Jun 24, 2001
    Chester County, PA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
     

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