Saudi fans angered by removal of public World Cup screens

An eyewitness described what had happened as 'not justified,' highlighting perceived double standards

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Alleged mixing between men and women caused local authorities in a city in Makkah province to remove TV screens showing World Cup matches on Friday, angering soccer fans.

Fans who were in the middle of watching a World Cup match in a park in Ward city had their game interrupted when men started removing TV screens which had previously been made available by the city council, a Makkah-based newspaper reported Friday.


Mohammed al-Shahri, an eyewitness, described what had happened as “not justified,” highlighting perceived double standards over why youth were able to watch soccer in parks on big TV screens in other Saudi cities such as Makkah and Jeddah.

Shahri added that no gender mixing had taken place, and that most people in attendance were men.

In response, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi political commentator and Al Arabiya columnist said on his Twitter account: “The state’s silence on this kind of behavior sends a message to the youth that extremism is just.”

Saudi soccer fans took to social networking site Twitter to express their frustration, with some calling the incident “stupid.”

“Those who removed the screens showing the World Cup in the gardens didn't do it because of mixing [among the sexes] but because they love to kill peoples’ pleasure,” one Twitter user wrote.

“If a person is sitting with his family, and he is in charge, what kind of mixing are they talking about?” another wrote.

“They know in the first place there will be mixing, why did they do that in the first place. What stupid behavior.”

Some Twitter users expressed sarcasm.

“It is ok to watch at home and coffee shops but not allowed in gardens? Mixing and music, they would figure it would become a nightclub?” one said, while another wrote: “No music, no mixing, as if they were supporting Italy, their brain stopped when they exited.”

But some left a more serious message on Twitter, with one user writing: “Those screens are meant for prayers and not the World Cup.”

Earlier in June, the municipality of Islam’s holiest city, Makkah, said it would offer soccer fans venues to watch matches for free as the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament kicked off in Brazil.

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