Bahrain players detained, clubs shut

Three players from Bahrain’s national football team have been

detained and six clubs have withdrawn from domestic leagues

following widespread, anti-government protests, the Bahrain

Football Association said Monday.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy group Youth of Feb. 14 Revolution

has launched a Facebook campaign calling on Formula One boss Bernie

Ecclestone not to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix ”until basic

human rights and freedoms are restored.” Bahrain has until May 1

to decide if it wants to reschedule the race which was canceled

March 13 due to the unrest.

The moves are the latest illustration of the effects on sport of

the anti-government protests that began Feb. 14 and have left 30

people dead.

The action against the footballers is part of a widespread

government crackdown on dissent following protests that have

resulted in journalists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers and activists

being detained. More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees also

have been suspended since April 5 for their alleged involvement in

protests against the country’s Sunni rulers.

Sheik Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the vice president of the

Bahrain FA, acknowledged the three players have been detained but

could provide no further information. He said the clubs – two in

the top division and four in the second – have withdrawn from the

league which resumed two weeks ago due to ”pressure from Shiite

political groups.”

Al Khalifa said all could be fined for their refusal to play as

well as other sanctions including relegation.

”Some of the clubs during the problems refrained from

participating,” Al Khalifa said. ”We haven’t suspended anyone.

They are just not participating. There is a fine and punishment of

course.”

However, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights says the

clubs from mostly Shiite villages were suspended last week from the

league for two years and fined $20,000. Along with football teams,

the clubs sponsor a range of sports in their communities.

Mohammed al-Maskati, the group’s president, said clubs had

stopped playing during the protests partly because they felt it was

too dangerous and also as an act of demonstration over the deaths

of protesters.

But he said that when the clubs announced they were ready to

resume playing, the authorities slapped the suspension and fines on

them.

”They could not work normally when protesters are killed in

their villages,” Al-Maskati said.

”The authorities want to tell them that you are supporting the

protests and this is the punishment. It’s not fair,” he said.

”Just because you are a sportsman doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be

political. Everyone in the world has ideas about something.

Everyone has the right to get involved.”