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October 2016
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Football: a powerful force for good in the world


ByDon McMahon

Unless you have actually seen terrorism and the extremist mentality that fostered it, it is hard to comprehend. Having lived and worked in the Middle East and seen the everyday Muslim, versus the tiny minority of fanatics, it comes as no surprise that one of the terrorists’ aims was to generate and promote Western xenophobia and extreme reactions to these horrible events. That is, among other aims, a core objective in their anti-Western campaign. T

hey succeed when they instill irrational fear and excessive hatred in their victims and targets.  They are getting what they wanted, and at a very cheap price. After all, they killed 129 infidels and only lost half a dozen or so fanatics… their way of thinking, a highly successful enterprise.

Some US states are refusing to take Syrian refugees, some European countries are trying to close their borders to them as well.   In my country of Canada, there is a petition currently circulating, demanding that our government renege on its promise to welcome 25,000 refugees over the next few months.  If enough countries do this, we will have created the ideal recruitment grounds for ISIS and their confreres among the desperate refugees, even as they are fleeing these murderers in the first place.

Strangely enough, Football might be a source of hope to help remedy this terrible no-win situation by offering new refugees a source of enjoyment and solidarity with Western values and social activities. Most refugees come from countries with National Associations that are members of FIFA, actively play the game AND value it as well.  They are passionate about the game and have many of their Muslim brothers and sisters playing at a very high level.

FIFA, UEFA, other FA’s and conference organizations (CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, etc.)as well as we supporters and lovers of the beautiful game,  have an extraordinary opportunity to assist in this humanitarian crisis, by doing some or all of the following as a start;

  • Publicly come out on the side of the refugees and their integration into their new homes by local and national authorities,
  • Provide mechanisms where the refugees can participate in Football regardless of where they are, by offering some financial and particularly coaching support to countries taking in these people,
  • Encouraging tolerance and acceptance of divergent immigrants and populations by football supporters in their new homes, which is one of FIFA’s principle vocations, according to their charter,
  • Promoting active participation of football supporters worldwide in raising support and funds to help these people find a soft landing in their new countries,
  • Encouraging football supporters to participate in accomodating some of these refugees by offering sanctuary, guidance and brotherhood (sisterhood?) as they attempt to adjust to their new lives far from their former homeland,
  • Encouraging football supporters to pressure their local, state and national political bodies and sports administrators into expanding and committing to socially and financially aid as many refugees as can be safely accommodated,
  • Finally, promoting FIFA to take the lead in this refugee aid campaign through their public and very vocal support and involvement in every aspect of this effort.

Terrorism does not hold any overwhelming or immediate threat for me personally, as I live in a place that is far from such menaces BUT that could change in short order, as no one is safe from such extremism. The more immediate threat to our values and way of life is, imho, the knee-jerk, ill-informed xenophobia and chauvinism some of my countrymen and fellow citizens are starting to show vis-à-vis these unfortunates, who are simply trying to flee violence, intimidation,sectarianism and unmitigated cruelty.

There is the persistent and irrational fear, above all others, that we will unwittingly let in terrorists by allowing massive influxes of Muslim refugees to come to our shores, and that they will plan and carry out attacks against us like the Paris tragedy.

In actual fact, these terrorists are already here and they don’t need the camouflage of refugees to continue their murderous rampages. My firm conviction is that, by welcoming Muslim refugees into our midst, treating them with dignity and supporting their integration, while respecting their beliefs and traditions, we will mitigate any damage that terrorists will try. Why do I say this? Because, from direct personal experience, I know that 99.99% of Muslims abhor what these terrorists do and given the chance, would gladly distance themselves from such un-Islamic behaviour. They are intimidated by these people, just like us and would welcome their disappearance once and for all!

I have heard far too many say that we should ship them all back to where they came from and let them kill each other, or worse still, never let any of them in in the first place. This is the familiar refrain that the xenophobes and racists chauvinists chanted during the Jewish and Irish holocausts of the last two centuries among many others. We of the footballing brotherhood/sisterhood are surely above this blinkered and ultra-racist sewer in which  a few self-righteous ancestors of immigrants condemn immigrants and immigration they don’t like.

What else can we do as a Footballing nation to cross the boundaries of race,creed,colour and gender  to ensure that these refugees find safe haven among us?

More anniversaries

  • 19 November 1932: Aston Villa 5 Arsenal 3  Jack, Lambert and Bastin scored.  It was part of a run in which Arsenal scored 40 goals in nine games, 12 of which came from Bastin.
  • 19 November 2011:  Having been 15th in the league (with Tottenham 17th) Arsenal scored their fifth win in a row with a 2-1 away with to Norwich, scoring 15 goals.  They ended the season in 3rd; Tottenham came in fourth.

The Untold Books

Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99.  For more details and to buy a copy please click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.

14 comments to Football: a powerful force for good in the world

  • nicky

    Football can certainly be a force for good in the world, but it can also spawn violent hatred in the wrong hands.
    From the irate father on the touchline when his young son’s goal is disallowed, to the tribal hatred of the local derby, there is as much evil as good in what is called “the beautiful game”.
    I was reminded the other day of the continuing sectarian divide between Glasgow’s Celtic and
    Rangers which simply shames such a great city. To base support of a football club on the grounds of religious persuasion is quite beyond comprehension.
    Those who actively play the game clearly demonstrate its force for good in the world. In the opposite camp though, are the so-called followers who attach themselves to a certain club to the vicious detriment of all others.
    And until this evil form of tribalism can be eradicated, a nasty blot will remain on the beautiful game.

  • Usama Zaka

    Thanks Don, for providing a good view about the Muslim people against terrorism.

    Just a trivial question, where did you worked in the Middle East ?

  • omgarsenal

    Usama……..I worked in Kuwait an an American International school in Kuwait City. Learnt a lot about the Islamic culture and got to know some very nice people there.

    Salam aliakum

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Let us in the Jewish/Christendom family know one fact that, any Islamic person fundamentally believes in Jihad. In accordance with the Islamic fundamental belief of every Moslem, anybody that is not a Moslem is an infidel and should either be converted to Islam if need be, or be killed. Moreso the conversion to the Sunni orthodox Islamic belief is believed by every Sunni to be the correct Islamic way for every Moslem to live. Saudi Arabia are the brains behind those Islamic violent we have been witnessing right from the time a French King initially halted the advance of the Jihadists to overun the whole of Europe and when later the Jihadists resurfaced again, and the Crusaders stopped them from their attempts to convert everybody to Sunni Islam by force.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve not read or heard when Saudi’s monarch have condemned those killings by the Sunni Islamic terrorists who are being sponsored by Saudi Arabia and have been killing. I believe Saudi Arabia are waging the Jihad by proxy through the hands of the terrorists. By the way, what is IS or ISIS and Isil? Call it whatever we want, is it not Islamic State? And what is Saudi Arabia? Are they not Islamic State? How many times have IS attacked Saudi Arabia? Any Islamic country that is not following and adhering to Sunni’s Islam of Saudi Arabia is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia. And the Jihad will continue to be waged against such country and her citizens. Should things overpowered the Jihadists at any point in time, they will retreat and stop their killings and people will think they’ve been defeated. It may take many many years for them to regroup, and when they do, they will resume their offence again. Is it not that what has been happening since the Jihad was first launch by the Jihadists? Palestinians are the sworn enemies of the Israelites right from the moment of their disobedience of the commandment of to them which they did not obey. Are the Islamists the sworn enemy of the Christians and the Jews? What is the way forward that will work permanently?

  • Usama Zaka


    Oh nice, Kuwait is a nice place. I live in Dubai. One notable fact about Kuwait is that it has one of the most strongest currencies in the world.

  • Josif

    Many thanks for such a lovely article on humanity and football.

    Sadly, we live in the ugliest times since WW2. Last night a psychopath killed two young soldiers in Sarajevo – a Serb and a Bosniak before committing a suicide. It seems he was a fan of those human-form Daleks from ISIL.

    I can’t say I’m scared. I have already seen the horrors of war. Three nights ago an 18-year-old kid, son of a family friend, had a terrible car accident just in front of my house and died. I know that one can die out of nothing.

    I just don’t know how can humanity fight against the raising force of evil. I’m afraid beating the devil inside of us won’t be enough.

    As a Muslim, I find ISIL’s existence both insulting and depressing. I feel ashamed because somehow that mindless hord of lunatics has been trying to take the whole religion as a hostage.

    Ugly times get a little less uglier thanks to contribution of good people like yourself, Don. Thank you.

  • nicky

    @Samuel AA,
    With respect, although you may be right in all you say,I don’t think Untold is the correct site on which to say it.
    Untold is a football forum, centred around Arsenal football Club and although we all stray from the point from time to time, I feel you have gone too far.

  • Goéland

    Thanks for this from the bottom of my heart, Don. As for Samuel´s comment, it fills me with despair. Believing all Muslims believe only Muslims only deserve to live? Inform yourself. Read about European history in the Middle Ages, and how the Moorish kingdoms were sources of knowledge and tolerance, especially towards the Jewish minority whose fate was far more uncertain and subject to violence in the Christian countries. Realize that more than 80% of terrorism victims nowadays are Muslims, and that many of those fighting against Daesh today are in fact Muslims (what about the Kurdish efforts in Kobane, and their rescue of thousands and thousands of Yazidis?). Above all, please, keep in mind that there´s only one kind of people: people. And the vast, vast, vast majority of people want peace more than anything else in the world. Peace: the ability to eat with friends without fear; the ability to see children play in the streets and laugh; the ability to enjoy football in a spirit of friendship and excitement. And if you believe your religion makes you inherently better than Muslims, I should remind you where the verse “There is no compulsion in religion” is found.

    As a French citizen, I am proud of having players like Zinédine Zidane, Lassana Diarra, Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa wear the Tricolore jersey, and they represent me and the France I love far better than any bigot who blathers on and on about “traditions”. As an Arsenal fan, I am grateful to Mesut Özil for all the joy he brings me, just as I used to be amazed by Abou Diaby´s incisiveness on the field. I don´t need to know what human beings believe in private to treat them with respect and dignity, according to how they act, and not “what” they are.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    @nicky and @ Goeland, I understand how you feel about my comments. But to win the peace some of us want to see won, what has been troubling the peace to be peaceful and remain peaceful has to be STOPPED!!! I not preaching religious hatred against any group or nation as long as no religious hatred is preached against me in this civilised 20 century for God’ sake.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    It would be great if football , or the arts and/or music be a unifying force against all that is negative and that ails the world .
    So much nonsense has been sprouted from either side of the divide that the truth never surfaces . Although information is now more easily accessible to most ,yet misinformation reigns supreme.
    Education is the only way forward . One has to learn first to understand , then only can he or she make an informed choice . Rein in the knee jerk reactions , take a deep breath , control the anger and see the problem ( if there really be one )in a clearer light .
    Let kindness and compassion always be the focal object ; never allow hatred and small-mindedness to prevail. Let goodness triumph , always .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘ In times of chaos and tragedy , the most powerful thing we can do collectively ,is to send love and healing intentions to those in distress .
    Don’t feed the energy of those who caused it .’

    From- Educate Inspire Change.

  • ARSENAL 13

    “Islamic fundamental belief of every Moslem, anybody that is not a Moslem is an infidel and should either be converted to Islam if need be, or be killed.”

    Well, Samuel… Its the interpretation thats wrong. And fanatics use this very interpretation to forward their agenda. They need chaos and that they achieved. They want countries to bomb them and kill innocent people as collateral damage, so that they get more weak minded people as new recruits.

    And lets not forget, is/isis/isil (any such organisation irrespective of religious leanings or area of operation) is like a company. With many political/economical stake holders. Not just Saudi. There are a few/many economies/regimes that survive on war………

  • jayramfootball

    I think football needs to be very careful about it’s response and involvement to these outraguous attacks by a minority of very evil and twisted people.
    The whole issue is so sensitive that it will be easy to make a mistake.
    Case in point, the decision to play the French national anthem at all PL games this weekend seems like a very noble and supportive thing to do on the face of it, but what message is it really sending out when the same was not done for the hundreds who died on the Russian airplane brought down by ISIL, or the 50 killed in a terrorist attack in Palestine as well as countless other incidents in the middle east over the last few months?
    This whole issue needs more careful thinking and response in my view.

  • Menace

    Good post Don. There are far too many aspects to cover in the sad theatre of new warfare. This soft target by followers of nasty greed hiding behind religion is not easily controlled. I personally have worked in many of the areas where war rages & countries where refugees have found escape. I feel for the families with young children but question some of the single men between 18 & 35 who are physically fit & capable to defend those being displaced. They have sufficient energy to agitate borders & exploit refugees. I am sure there would be some very good footballers among them but they are not interested in sport, just economic growth…..

    Too much is being allowed in the name of freedom without any thought of long term effects. Football is not in a position to clean social issues when some of its leaders are worse than terrorists. They have destroyed several societies by corrupt practice & financial abuse. The lives lost cannot be counted as easily as those after an explosive attack but the effect is just as devastating over a period of time.

    The exodus of people should not be encouraged nor should the plight of those people ignored. Families with young children should be given priority while single refugees should be vetted carefully.

    Football is not sufficient to resolve the issues but it gives the mind a deviation from the pain of others.