World Cup should come with health warning

Guy Jackson
BERLIN, July 4, 2006 (AFP) – While the fans in Germany are pampered in high-tech stadiums or fun-filled fan areas, in other parts of the world the struggle to catch the World Cup action can cost you your life.

From Somalia to Portugal, fans are struggling to catch a glimpse of TV coverage of the Beautiful Game, sometimes with fatal results.

Hardline Islamic courts in the Somali capital Mogadishu banned people from watching the action in Germany on television, believing it to be against Muslim teachings.

Two people were killed as gunmen, reportedly allied to the Joint Islamic Courts, forced the closure of three cinema halls and warned football lovers against watching the matches which were being relayed through satellite.

"The Islamic courts have ordered the closure of three cinema halls," said Sukahola resident Abdulaziz Hanad.

"They want to make sure that nobody in Mogadishu watches the World Cup."

Dangers lurk in Europe too.

Portugal was thrown into wild celebrations after its team reached the semi-finals for the first time for 40 years.

A 17-year-old girl, who had been celebrating the penalty shoot-out win over England with a group of fellow supporters in Muralto, was seriously hurt after climbing onto a tram and touching a high-voltage overhead electric powerline, police said.

And fans in Paris were injured as troublemakers flung bottles at police after France eliminated Brazil in a dramatic quarter-final.

Three Kenyans were electrocuted and nearly killed when they tried to erect a television antenna to watch the World Cup but accidentally hit a high-voltage power line in Nairobi.

At least the World Cup provided some light relief for British troops in Afghanistan who were allowed a break from duties to watch TV coverage of England drawing 2-2 with Sweden early in the tournament.

Downing their guns to watch the match on a wide-screen satellite TV at Lashkar Gar, a British military base in the restive Helmand province, about 60 soldiers, men and women, stayed up long into the night to support their team.

"It is great for morale to be able to take time out to watch England play at the World Cup," said Corporal Jonathan White, 25.

In Baghdad, many Iraqis have missed out on the spectacle as the country’s public broadcaster struggled to show matches.

"I can’t buy a decoder for the Arab channel that is showing all the matches," said student Mustafa Abdel Sattar.

Subscribers can pay 175 dollars (135 euros) to receive a special package that includes all 64 matches broadcast by the ART channel.

Even in Turkmenistan, one of the most closed countries on Earth, football-mad fans found a way to see the goals.

Under the iron rule of President Saparmurat Niyazov, there are four closely controlled state television channels, but no live football, although highlights are shown, albeit sometimes days after the match.

So football fans crowd into cafes and bars with satellite television to watch Russian television’s live coverage of the tournament.

"We bought and installed satellite TV to attract clients and so did our neighbours. Look — there are no spare seats. Clients are calling to reserve well ahead of time," said Rustam, the 34-year-old owner of a cafe in downtown Ashgabat.