This from my Champion’s League final op-ed in The National:
What was most fascinating about the photograph of the Somali gunman who was part of the crowd dragging the body of an Ethiopian soldier through the streets of Mogadishu that appeared in newspapers last year was his shirt. It bore the number 13, beneath the legend “Ballack”. This particular fighter was declaring his fealty not only to the Islamist Shebab movement, but also to Chelsea football club and its newly acquired German midfielder.
That image reminded me of a 2002 story in the London Sunday Times, in which Hala Jaber painted an extraordinary portrait of a group of young Palestinians training to be suicide bombers. Amid the tension of the boys steeling themselves to kill and be killed, one of the fighters ran in with “very important news”: Manchester United had beaten West Ham 5-3. “David Beckham two score. Very good Manchester,” Jaber quoted him as saying, adding: “The announcement was greeted with unanimous pleasure, amid further calls of ‘Allahu akbar’.”
If they are still alive, it’s a safe bet that the Somali gunman and the Palestinian apprentice-shahids will, on Wednesday, be watching Chelsea and Manchester United slug it out in Moscow for the title of European Champions.
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