February 4, 2023

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Global: Latin America’s Arab diaspora is divided by divided loyalties

According to Dib, this situation is common in many Arab countries and reflects the recognition and appreciation of the talents of South American players.

“In countries like Syria and Lebanon, people like Argentina and Brazil football,” he said. “I lived in Tunisia for a few months and people always asked me about Maradona and Messi.”

Zuka Khouri, who fled Syria as a refugee and moved to Curitiba, Brazil, nine years ago, said his family cheers for the Brazilian national team at every World Cup.

“We also wanted to see Italy play,” he said Arabic News. “This year, Italy is not in the competition, so we encourage Brazil.”

Anas Obaid, a 34-year-old Syrian refugee, was captured by an armed group in Syria and held hostage by his family until a ransom was paid. After his release, he fled to Lebanon, where he worked in a refugee camp in Jahle. He has been living in Brazil since 2015 and is now a journalist and human rights activist. He loves soccer and he used to cheer for Argentina as a kid.

“I was there during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” Obaid said Arabic News. “I encouraged Germany because that country hosts many Syrian refugees. But some refugees in the camp supported Brazil.

Since arriving in Sao Paulo, he has become an ardent supporter of the Brazilian national team. “Brazilians are passionate about football and it’s an honor to support their team,” he said.

Although football is undoubtedly a national obsession in Brazil and the World Cup is a major event for the country’s people, the number of Brazilian fans who bought tickets to matches in Qatar (39,546) was significantly lower than that of Argentina (61,083). and Mexican (91,173).

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Mexico continues to send supporters to World Cups. Most Arab Mexicans are of Lebanese descent, says Hector Samlati, board member of Centro Libanes, a community association in Mexico City. The number of Lebanese-Mexicans is estimated at around 500,000, most of whom are Christians.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino smiles during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match between Brazil and Switzerland at the 974 Stadium in Doha (Photo, AFP).

“We have a very strong bond with the Mexico national team,” Samladi said Arabic News. “But it gives us a lot of pleasure to see the Arab teams play. I was happy to see Tunisia cope with Denmark on November 22.

The grandson of Lebanese immigrants assured that the Mexican community feels a strong connection with Lebanon and that many of them would surely support the country’s national team if it participated in the tournament in Qatar.

“But I think it’s special to see a possible win for any Arab team,” he added.

José Alejandro Serio Haddad, a 25-year-old Lebanese-Mexican, traveled to Qatar with his friends to watch Mexico play. It was his first visit to an Arab country and he experienced culture shock.

“I think the cultures of Qatar and Lebanon are very different,” he said Arabic News. “Also, the number of Arabs here is not very high. Mostly we meet South Asians. We always feel like strangers.

Serio Haddad is not optimistic about the Arab team’s chances of progressing from the group stage to the finals of the tournament “but we definitely feel more empathy for them than teams from Latin Americans like Argentina.

Obaid said it was a significant event for a Muslim country to host the World Cup for the first time, but he was unhappy with the amount of criticism leveled at Qatar.

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“I am worried about the reaction of the international community,” he advised. “It’s a way to fight prejudice against Muslims and Arabs. But at the same time, people pay more attention to Qatar’s social contradictions than if the World Cup was held in a non-Muslim country.

Tipp pointed out that he organized the debates to discuss the general distortions in the way the West views the World Cup in Qatar.

“Since the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, there have been corruption scandals, for example,” he said. “But the media now only focuses on Qatar’s problems. It’s a biased question.”

In any other context, he said, the world press would have talked about the marvels of the construction carried out by the host country, “but because it is an Arab country, it only talks about the deaths that occurred during construction.”

Dib added, “I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but focusing only on these topics is a problem. It is associated with Orientalism as defined by Edward Said.

In his 1978 book, “Orientalism,” Said established an important concept that often denigrates Western depictions of the Orient.

Tipp argued that many Latin Americans of Arab descent are uncomfortable with what they perceive as biased coverage of Qatar – which has also been echoed in Latin American media – because they feel “there is a permanent attack on Arab culture”. throughout”.

This text is a translation of an article published on Arabnews.com