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New Zealand Futsal keeper among those killed in Christchurch: This week in football Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

New Zealand Futsal keeper among those killed in Christchurch: This week in football

At least 50 people were killed in the attack on two Christchurch mosques [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 March, 2019

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The Middle East has turned this week to New Zealand, where a horrific terror attack in a mosque took the lives of 50 people.
Among the victims in Christchurch, there was one with a footballing life story: Atta Alyan, New Zealand's national futsal goalkeeper, was among the people killed in the devastating event.

Alyan, a 33-year-old Kuwaiti-born Palestinian, played 22 times for the Futsal Whites. He was also the goalkeeper for the Canterbury United Futsal Dragons. Alyan was the recipient of New Zealand Football's futsal player of the year award in 2014.

Alyan had been coaching the Christchurch Boys' High School futsal team that had entered the secondary schools' national competition. The had been set to start on 25 March 2019.

His father, who was with him during the attack, is from Abu Dis in the Jerusalem area.

"Atta was a great man and well-liked by everyone in the Futsal Whites squad and the futsal community. There are no words to sum up how we are all feeling. He will be sorely missed," Josh Margetts, NZF's futsal development manager, told BBC Sport.

FA New Zealand's top professional football team, Wellington Phoenix, paid tribute to Alyan and the other victims at their A-League match against Western Sydney Wanderers this past weekend.

Alyan leaves behind a wife and a daughter.

2022 World Cup to change?

On Friday, the FIFA council gathered in Miami. There, the committee produced a significant announcement regarding the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar: 

"The FIFA Council acknowledged that expanding the tournament to 48 teams was feasible, provided that neighbouring countries hosted some matches (with Qatar as the leading host country).

"The process is now entering its next stage, in which, together, FIFA and Qatar will explore this possibility further and analyse if a joint expansion proposal that meets all the requirements can be submitted to the FIFA Council and the FIFA Congress in June."

This has a variety of potential outcomes for the Gulf in general and Qatar in particular.

The World Cup has been Qatar's biggest ever project, with the country dedicating the most significant resources to its construction for much of the past decade.

Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams and adding two more hosts from neighbouring countries would signal a significant interference of the current Gulf Crisis in World Cup preparation.



In the past few months, reports have indicated Saudi Arabia is "pushing" FIFA to expand the World Cup, to "take a bite" out of Qatar's national project.

Sources have told The New Arab, that in addition to the World Cup expansion, the Saudis proposed to FIFA that the Club World Cup should be changed into a 24-team compitition every four years. Both suggestions would boost FIFA's income from the current forms of the two tournaments.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, both of the suggestions enjoyed the organisation's support in the council meeting.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have maintained a blockade against the Qataris - and now it is again finding expression in football politics.

"The vote on the final decision will be taken by the 69th FIFA Congress, taking place in Paris on 5 June 2019," read a statement. "In the meantime, preparation for a 32-team tournament continues normally in Qatar."

The final answer will be a crucial moment for the Gulf and the Middle East.

Mido in trouble

Tuesday morning saw some unusual news coming out from Saudi Arabia. 

Al-Wehda sacked their Egyptian coach, Ahmed "Mido" Hassan, after he cursed out fans on Twitter following the team's 0-4 loss to Al-Nassr. Mido denied the postig the tweets, claiming his account was "hacked".

The club's board didn't wait long to clarify the issue with the former Ajax, Roma and Marseille man and terminated his contract with immediate effect.

Mido took over at Al-Wahda last December and enjoyed a decent run of games, including a victory against Al Ahli and a draw against league leaders Al-Hilal.

The 36-year-old deleted the offending tweets and apologised for any insults.

"I thank Al-Wahda's board and fans," he said. "I have taken the responsibility at a tough time, however, thanks to God's grace, and the support of the club's board, players and staff to achieve great results and performances," Mido tweeted.

"I respect the club's decision. However, I will prove through the legal procedures that my account was hacked."

Mido coached Al-Wahda for 13 games, winning six, drawing three, and losing four - and has been named "manager of the round" twice.

He left the Mecca club in sixth place of the league, with 36 points from 24 games.

Al-Wahda has already announced Chilean Alvaro Vidal as the new manager.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.

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