Turki al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabias under-pressure head of sports, has released a diatribe on Twitter against former world football officials, the president of UEFA, broadcaster beIN Sports and Qatar.

In a 10-tweet broadside, Sheikh took aim at Sepp Blatter, the former president of world football body FIFA, ex-UEFA president Michel Platini and Aleksander Ceferin, the current head of the European football organisation.

He also called on FIFA's current president, Gianni Infantino, to take action against Doha-based beIN Sports, the primary network showing coverage of the World Cup in the Middle East, which Sheikh accused of propagating and implementing the Qatari governments agendas.

The attack came as Sheikh, the chairman of the Saudi sports authority, has found himself under increasing pressure, as he and national football team fail to live up to expectations at the World Cup.

After Saudi Arabias 5-0 defeat to Russia in the opening game of the World Cup, Sheikh released a video in which he chastised the teams performance, complaining the players did not exert more than five percent of effort.

He was rumoured later to be planning to punish forward Mohammad al-Sahlawi, defender Osama Hawsawi and goalkeeper Abdullah al-Mayouf for their performances in Moscow, which the Saudi football association was then moved to deny.

Taking aim

Sheikh began the tweet storm by denying he had been dismissed from his role.

He said he was “pleased with what I saw when Qatari officials, the Muslim Brotherhood, Mullahs and those who sympathize with them were jumping for joy as they heard such rumors”.

(1)The news of my dismissal from my position has been circulated in the past two days.
First of all: it is an assignment, not an honor. If this was the case, there would be millions of people out there who are just like Turki Al-Sheikh, or even better than he is. Second: I was

— تركي آل الشيخ (@Turki_alalshikh) June 21, 2018

Then he moved onto Blatter, the disgraced former head of world football who stepped down in 2015 amid a spiralling corruption scandal.

“If I were in his position, I would be ashamed of myself and drop out of sight completely,” Sheikh insisted.

(4)I was truly disappointed about some of what has emerged recently, including:
– The public appearance of Sepp Blatter and the statements he published. If I were in his position, I would be ashamed of myself and drop out of sight completely, especially

— تركي آل الشيخ (@Turki_alalshikh) June 21, 2018

Moving onto Platini, a Blatter ally who lost the presidency of UEFA as a result of the same scandal, Sheikh said people close to the former France midfielder were trying to arrange a meeting between the two, and was he “not honored to do so”.

“Platini walked out of the small door and is never supposed to come back again,” the Saudi official wrote.

Sheikhs real ire seemed to be reserved for Ceferin, however, whom he did not deem to refer to by name.

(6)- In addition, the President of the Union of European Football Association, UEFA, is trying to meet me, but I am telling him that I do not like to meet men of many faces. If you want to meet, you should have a clear stance on fair issues,

— تركي آل الشيخ (@Turki_alalshikh) June 21, 2018

The UEFA president is a man “of many faces”, Sheikh said, while claiming Ceferin was attempting to meet him.

In response, UEFA sent a tweet of its own, denying Ceferin even knew who Sheikh was.

UEFA was quite surprised by a tweet of @Turki_alalshikh, as the UEFA President has never heard of this person and he therefore would have no reason to meet him.

— UEFA (@UEFA) June 21, 2018

Sheikh then said the European body deserves better leadership, which is able to “maintain its gains”.

Broadcasting displeasure

Sheikh has also taken issue with beIN Sports broadcasting rights, which have been caught up in the year-long diplomatic spat between Riyadh and Doha.

BeIN, the sports arm of Qatari state broadcaster Al Jazeera, has exclusive rights to show the World Cup and Champions League games in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia, which has banned Al Jazeera as part of a number of measures designed to bring Qatari policy in line with its own, has blocked beIN Sports from broadcasting in the kingdom.

Instead, a channel called BeoutQ has illegally broadcast World Cup and Champions League matches.

Last week, FIFA labelled BeoutQ a “pirate channel”. The world football governing body said takes it "takes infringements of its intellectual property very seriously and is exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights".

Similarly, UEFA has said the “illegal piracy of live football, particularly on the scale of that being carried out by BeoutQ, poses a significant threat to European football".

In his tweets, Sheikh said Ceferin forces people to watch beIN “without taking into account the feelings of 30 million Saudi citizens and all the Arab countries [sic] whose opinions and views had been disregarded”.

Sheikh asked Infantino, FIFA's president, "a dear friend for whom the Kingdom and I hold a great respect", to reconsider beIN Sports broadcasting rights.

Attracting attention

Inevitably, the public protest has attracted the attention of fans of football and Middle Eastern politics on Twitter.

رسمياُ : انمسحت فيه الأرض من اليويفا ? بتستاهل , عشان تحط حالك بمواقف بايخة زي وجهك

— YaZaN (@YazanSalhi) June 21, 2018

One person even tweeted that Sheikh should pretend to be dead because of how embarrassing the situation he put himself in was.

اعمل نفسك ميت بسرعه ??

— مـعـووكس . (@m3okss) June 22, 2018

On the other hand, some expressed disbelief over UEFA head Aleksander Ceferin's claim that he did not know who Sheikh was, and said they thought Sheikh represented the views of the Arab people.

طيب دامهم مايعرفونه اصلا كيف وصلهم صدى تغريداته لهم وهو توه غرد فيها ؟؟ الوضع مشكوك فيه

— آريا ستارك ezio ?? (@IIi_arya) June 21, 2018

Sheikh is no stranger to controversy. In May, he stepped down as honorary president of top Egyptian football club al-Ahli because of tensions over his handling of the team's recruitment.

He also enraged Egyptian football fans by appearing to wish for the Pharaohs' star forward Mohamed Salah to miss the World Cup.

With Salah sustaining an injury in last month's Champions League final, putting his World Cup in doubt, Egyptians accused Sheikh of being behind the mishap.

Moroccan fans similarly have a dim view of the Saudi sports tsar, after his country failed to vote for Morocco's bid for the 2026 World Cup, reneging against Arab solidarity.

Sheikh was appointed head of Saudi sports in September 2017. Perhaps not coincidentally, at almost exactly the same time he treated himself to a $4.8m Bugatti sports car, documents seen by Middle East Eye revealed.

Original Article


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