Fear factor for Syrian athletes

There is no Baba Amr now anyway ... it's all demolished.

Written by Reuters | London | Published:April 5, 2012 12:55 am

Abdelbasset Saroot,the former Syria international goalkeeper,said on Tuesday his country’s athletes do not want to compete in this year’s London Olympics because they don’t want to play for a flag that they have no pride or faith in.

“I personally know the majority of the athletes don’t want to take part and they are only going (out of) fear (for) their families – the regime repercussions if they don’t comply,” said 20-year-old Saroot,whose country failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics soccer after a 2-1 defeat by Uzbekistan last month,is a supporter of the anti-government protests.

“My message as a footballer,athlete and activist first of all is that we are seeing a real massacre here and the world isn’t speaking except of numbers and death tolls.

“These are real people,this is a massacre because people are being butchered,people in the world have forgotten about the humanitarian crisis — houses are being demolished.”

With pressure increasing for Syria to be banned from this summer’s London Games,the president of Syria’s National Olympic Committee (NOC),General Mowaffak Joumaa, said: “There is no question about it – we are taking part.” But Saroot added: “Our message to IOC is that half of the Syrian teams going to play matches or those taking part in the Olympics will not know much about what is happening here in Homs (Syria’s third-largest city). The authorities hide the news from them.

“You have to view those athletes as cut off from reality — they don’t know the extent of the shelling … they don’t know that a shell could be hitting their mother,father or a relative at any moment in Baba Amr (neighbourhood of Homs). There is no Baba Amr now anyway … it’s all demolished.

“They don’t know that a fellow Syrian footballer Ahmed Al Shedan,may he rest in peace,was martyred here in Homs. He was a star. They don’t know that other athletes’ families have been killed and massacred.

“I know personally that half of these players are leaving against their will. They are playing against their will,and I want to share this message with the world and the world will see for themselves.”

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