Sports as a Potential Unifying Force in Yemen: A Tale of Destruction and Hope
The 2014 outbreak of the Yemeni civil war has significantly impacted Yemeni society in many ways, including sports. The Houthis and the internationally recognised government have used sports as a military tactic throughout the fight. This article looks at how sports have been used to recruit people and gain an advantage in battle and how sports may help a country heal from a civil war.
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The Dark Side of Sports in the Yemeni Civil War
The violence has forced some Yemeni athletes into it while forcibly recruiting others, placing them in the middle. Tragically, several athletes have passed away, and others have suffered disabilities. Abdul-Jabbar Al-Edrisi, a former football player for the Al-Shaab Sanaa football club and the Yemeni national team, is one example. He was slain in Al Hudaydah while fighting for the Houthis.
The Houthis’ meddling in sports goes beyond recruiting. They have imposed their will on athletic organisations, ingraining their ideology and repurposing athletic facilities for military use. Similarly, the widely respected administration has used its enthusiasm for sports to advance its goals. Both sides have contributed to the devastation of Yemeni sports by converting stadiums and other venues into weapon storage facilities, training grounds, and even combatant graveyards.
The Power of Sports in Rebuilding Yemen
Some athletes and administrators think that sports can be vital to reconstructing Yemen and promoting togetherness despite the devastation and exploitation of sports by warring factions. An 88% decline in involvement in sports has occurred in Yemen as a result of the war, according to Ali Atiq, a spokesperson of the internationally recognised government’s Ministry of Youth and Sports. However, he cites several important sporting occasions showing how sports may help restore society’s social fabric and foster harmony and peace.
Ali Al-Nono, a former captain of Yemen’s national football team, thinks that athletics may heal the war’s communal and political divisions. He claims that before political reconciliation between Yemen’s north and south, Yemeni athletes were among the first to convey a message of unification. Ibrahim Abdulaziz, a member of Yemen’s national tennis team, emphasises the power of sports to rebuild shattered community ties and get past sectarian and political divisions.
Hassan Al-Aidarous, a sports commentator, emphasises that fans and athletes share responsibility for using sports as a unifying factor. He contends that sports can successfully promote a culture of peace among citizens of the same nation or of many races and nations. Promoting moral behaviour, good sportsmanship, and accepting defeat without encouraging racism, hatred, or division is crucial.
Without a doubt, the Yemeni civil war has had a terrible effect on the country’s sports, with sportspeople being recruited or killed and sporting facilities being converted for military use. Despite the devastation, there is optimism that Yemeni society might be rebuilt and united via sports. Everyone from athletes to officials to commentators knows how powerful athletics can be in bridging societal gaps, bridging divides, and fostering peace and coexistence. Yemen can work towards healing and reconciliation in the face of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world by utilizing the positive features of sports.