World Cup broadcasts cause sabotage, piracy and rioting

Ryan Bailey
June 14, 2010

Fans who tuned in to see the U.S. victory over England on ITV HD on Saturday can seek solace in the fact that they aren't the only ones to have fallen foul of World Cup broadcasting. Relaying the tournament across the globe sounds like a simple enough task, but it is fraught with sabotge, piracy, rioting and arrests ...

First up is the curious case of Al Jazeera Sports, which owns exclusive rights to the World Cup in the Middle East across its 19 channels. They suffered interruptions to their broadcast of the opening game between Mexico and South Africa, but unlike the ITV gaffe, which was attributed to human error, the Arabic-language channel is calling shenanigans of the highest order:

“Al Jazeera Sport would like to condemn the actions of those involved in the deliberate attempts to block its signal during its World Cup broadcasts yesterday [Friday]."

Attorney Sonya Shaykhoun used much bigger words to describe the incident, pointing the finger at either a disgruntled customer, someone with strong political motives or someone with weak political motives. Nice and specific then:

"Needless to say, it is caustic to imagine that either of the satellite operators, Nilesat or Arabsat, would interfere with the Al Jazeera channel, which is owned by the Qatari government, to such a damaging extent and at such a crucial time. Especially given that Nilesat is owned in part by the Egyptian government while Arabsat is owned by a consortium of Arab countries. It is imaginable that the sabotage was not commercially-motivated but rather motivated by a disgruntled customer armed with the know-how or by political malcontents for obscure political reasons."

FIFA have supported Al Jazeera's quest to bring the saboteurs to justice, but have taken a rather different stance to the mavericks over at North Korean state television. Football's governing body are likely to give the network a good ticking off, as they stand accused of broadcasting super naughty pirate World Cup coverage that doesn't belong to them. Reuters report:

The North Korean Central Broadcasting Station has aired the opening match between host South Africa and Mexico late on Saturday and are expected to air on Sunday some of the matches held a day before but not arch rival South Korea’s, they said.

SBS channel in Seoul, which has the exclusive broadcast rights over the whole of the Korean peninsula, said in a report North Korea has been airing the coverage without any consent from the SBS broadcasting company.

And speaking of pirates, there's been plenty broadcast-related madness in Somalia, where 14 teenagers were arrested simply for tuning into Sunday's match between Germany and Australia. Watching football, you see, is deemed to be "un-Islamic" and a "waste of time" in the nation that lives by Shariah law. Sheikh Abdisamad Abdulahi, a very stern commander of the Hisbul Islam militia, explains in an interview with Bloomberg:

“Our troops stormed their room and arrested all of the boys. They have violated our orders not to watch such time-wasting games.

“I am warning all the teenagers not to watch such games at all. If we find anyone watching these games we will punish them.”

Football is a little less controversial in Bangladesh, where it is the second most viewed sport behind cricket. Its popularity was made clear on Saturday when the impoverished country experienced one of its frequent power outages, moments before the broadcast of the match between Argentina and Nigeria. Locals were enraged that they couldn't see what a fine suit Diego Maradona picked for the occasion, and decided to start a riot. USA Today picks up the story:

The violence erupted late Saturday when the blackouts hit Dhaka's southern Saidabad district just before the match between Argentina and Nigeria, said police official Mohammad Moniruzzaman.

He said nearly 200 youths – many of them armed with iron rods – joined the rampage and blocked roads for several hours. No one was injured, he said.

So, next time you consider complaining about the drone of a vuvuzela, count yourself lucky that you can see the match at all. And that no one near you is rampaging with an iron rod.

Image: Getty

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