Yemenis live a painful reality because of the war that has been overwhelming the country for two years, causing not only the suspension of sports activities across the country but also a looming threat of potential famine, as red-flagged by various INGOs.
However, in spite of the cruelty of war, eyebrows have been raised at the sight of some photos circulated by social media users. The photos showed an impressive number of football fans crammed in the stands of Sayoun Olympic Stadium to watch a match between two “local-level” teams, Sallam Al-Ghorfah vs. Wahdat Tarim disputing the Hadhramout Cup semi-finals – a local-level competition held in the region.
Mohammed Mustafa Bamakhrama, a sports journalist from the Hadramout governorate, was the first to publish the photos on his personal webpage. His post quickly turned into a message of peace shared by various Yemeni activists on social networking pages, a clear sign of Yemenis’ intense desire to have peace and stop war.
In spite of the fact that the stadium’s cement stands did not have seats for spectators to sit and watch, the pictures show that football fans flocked from all sides. Spectators not only filled the stadium on all four sides of the stands (estimated to take in 20,000 spectators) but also gathered in the dusty areas around the football pitch – and in doing so also reflected the neglected condition and lack of maintenance and improvement at the stadium.
Hadhramout football fans, and the population as a whole, are unique in many aspects, particularly with regard to sports. The intensity of their enthusiasm and passion for sports is well reflected by those pictures, taken during a “local” match. Imagine how the scene would be like if the match were a part of a highly competitive local or regional tournament!
The images themselves inspired an extensive and varied response from the people who reacted to them, and saw them as both a symbol of – and a contradiction to – the current conditions in the country. The outcome is positive, though. Soon enough, a newspaper attributed a statement to the governor of Hadramout in response to the call of the masses: he issued instructions to grow grass on the pitch and install spectator chairs in the stands.
credit: International Sports Press Association (AIPS)