Voices from the Arab press: Why do we keep losing at the last minute?

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

An Egypt fan looks dejected after his country's match vs Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, June 25, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES)
An Egypt fan looks dejected after his country's match vs Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, June 25, 2018
Al-Shorouk, Egypt, June 22
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that most Arab sport clubs are not on par with other teams competing at the international level. This is in part due to a difference in funding, training and resources available as compared to other wealthier and more developed nations.
Still, the gap between the Arab world and the Western one is unfathomable. Between 1896 and 2016, the United States managed to win over 2,500 Olympic medals. Do you know how many medals the Arab world, in its entirety, collected during this same time frame? 108. What’s even more frustrating is that our teams seem to lose at the very last minute of each match. Why is this?
The answer, in my view, has little to do with physical fitness and everything to do with culture. We, in the Arab world, have no regard for getting tasks done from start to finish.
Think back to your childhood experiences at school, when a teacher would skip entire chapters of a textbook just because the end of the school year was nearing. Look at our workplaces, where employees cut corners and leave “just 15 minutes” before the end of a shift in order to save time and evade their responsibilities.
We leave things to the last minute and we take shortcuts whenever we can. While elsewhere in the world people are held accountable for each and every phase of their work, we in the Middle East have embraced mediocrity. We’ve become complacent.
While other teams view the last few minutes of a match as an ideal opportunity to tip the scale in their favor and win the game, we view those exact same minutes as time to kill. When a game doesn’t go well, we immediately defend ourselves by saying we had bad luck.
Because of this mentality, we lose some of the most precious moments that could change our fate. Success is only achieved by those who strive for it.
– Hussein al-Mastaqawi
Al-Arab, London, June 23
About eight kilometers from downtown Damascus is a large refugee camp by the name of Yarmouk. Established in 1957 to house Palestinian refugees, the camp quickly transformed into the epicenter of the exiled Palestinian community living in Syria, as well as other displaced populations. Sadly, it also has suffered massive destruction.
In April 2015, Islamic State forces entered the camp and launched an assault against rebels from the Free Syrian Army who were positioned at Yarmouk. Within a few days, the camp was completely taken over by ISIS fighters, who began executing citizens in the streets. Over 10,000 Palestinians are estimated to have fled the camp, while hundreds of others were killed. The camp was placed under siege for months.
This is one of the biggest tragedies in Palestinian history, one that calls for widespread condemnation and denunciation. Yet the world, and even the Palestinian leadership, has remained silent. Worst of all is Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, who went so far as to describe the Syrian regime as a “guardian of Palestinian rights.”
In making such a shameful statement, Haniyeh revealed that Hamas does not care at all about the rights of Palestinians. Even more troubling, if Hamas is not bothered by the condition of Palestinian refugees abroad, why should it care about those living in the Gaza Strip? Indeed, since Hamas took over Gaza a decade ago, it has done nothing to improve the living conditions of the population it controls. The only thing the people of Gaza have experienced under Hamas’s rule is increased misery and isolation.
Hamas chose to align itself with Iran and Syria, thereby cutting off the Gaza Strip not only from the West Bank, but also from the rest of the world. Hamas’s division with the Palestinian Authority, coupled with its insistence on affiliating with the worst regimes in the region, has only brought death and destruction upon the people of Palestine. Instead of pretending that the Syrian regime is loyal to Palestinians, Haniyeh should begin to stand up for his own people.
The displacement of Palestinians is wrong and devastating wherever it happens, be it in the Occupied Territories or in Syria. To understand the despair of the people of Palestine, Haniyeh should take a stroll through the streets of Gaza.
– Kheir Allah
Al Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, June 23
We often reminisce about the past, looking back at our early years with a sense of nostalgia. Our children are habitually told that, in the past, things were “simpler” and “easier” or that people were “more pleasant.” As someone who lived in Saudi Arabia for some 60-odd years, I am now in the position to comment on how much we’ve changed as a nation.
To our children and grandchildren I can confidently say that our level of wealth, stability and comfort is simply unparalleled. Life in the kingdom today is a paradise compared to what it was when I was a teenager and young adult. Our level of development – from roads to the education system – is one of the highest in the world.
Our economy is booming. Our political system is more vibrant than ever. A young Saudi walking through the old streets of Riyadh would not recognize that this used to exemplify his country, looking like an isolated African village: namely, a clay town infested with pests, deprived of basic infrastructure and ridden with disease.
In other words, the sense of nostalgia we feel has more to do with our own emotions rather than with facts on the ground. As we grow old, we begin to romanticize our youth. We look back on the past and fall into the trap – indeed, into an illusion – of thinking that things used to be better. Instead of wasting our energy on a period of time that is long gone, we would be better off appreciating what we have right now.
In order to continue moving our nation forward, we must live in the present and work to build a better future for our children. They, too, will one day look back at these years with romanticism and nostalgia. And they, too, will come to realize that their living standards are a big improvement over those of the past.
– Muhammad al-Sheikh
Al Ra’i, Jordan, June 20
The construction of a maritime channel to separate Qatar from Saudi Arabia is being examined by authorities in Riyadh, which has already established a bidding deadline for the project. Over five international companies have thus far submitted proposals for the tender, vying for the right to complete the 12-month-long project.
The channel, known as the Salwa Canal, is designed to be 60 kilometers in length, 200 meters in width, and 20 meters in depth. If established, it would turn Qatar into a de facto island, surrounded by nothing but water and a 1-kilometer-long stretch of Saudi territory that will host a military base and a nuclear waste site.
The proposed project comes in the wake of turbulent times in the Arab Gulf, following the GCC-imposed boycott on Qatar in 2017. Now, over a year later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are looking for new ways to further sever ties with Doha, by establishing a physical barrier between Qatar and the rest of the Arab world.
The Salwa project, which is expected to cost over $750 million, will be financed by private investors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with the help of Egyptian drilling companies. With air and land routes leading to Qatar already closed off, this newest project poses a dangerous threat to the Qatari economy.
For Qatar, losing all access to the mainland will increase pressure on the government to accept the GCC’s demands and abide by Riyadh’s dictates. Yet this project might also escalate the already high tensions along the border between the two countries, where violent clashes have erupted in the past.
In an age when people are speaking of building bridges, Riyadh and Doha seem to be focused on digging tunnels of separation. Who knows what this will bring?
– Muhammad Fahed