By: Robert F. Worth | N.Y. Times
This decaying port city, near the heart of Yemen’s deadly Qaeda insurgency, may seem an odd place to host an international soccer tournament.
Yet there they were, tens of thousands of fans from across the Arab world, packed into a vast stadium on Sunday night to watch the final game of the Gulf Cup. No one seemed to care much that a small army of police officers was guarding the streets outside, or that Yemen’s national team lost in the first round.
Kuwait took the title with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but the real victory, many said, belonged to Yemen: the two-week tournament finished without a single terrorist attack.
“What was broken is fixed! Our people, with strength in unity!” a voice from the loudspeaker sang out at earsplitting volume. The fans — many of whose faces were painted in the colors of the Saudi, Yemeni and Kuwaiti flags — roared their approval.
The tournament, which featured teams from eight Persian Gulf states, was a concerted effort by Yemen’s government to change the country’s image as an insurgent battleground and wellspring of global terrorism plots, including an attempt in October to send explosive packages to the United States. It seems to have succeeded, at least in this part of the world.
“I wrote a will before coming here, and my family begged me not to go,” said Ahmed Salami, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti photographer. “But I discovered all the things we have heard are untrue: Yemen is beautiful!”