Bahrain’s attacks on protesting athletes shatters chances for Olympic glory

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Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

Japan's Yuki Otsuand, right, and Bahrain's Waleed Alhayama fight for the ball at an Asian qualifying soccer match for the 2012 London, Olympics Games in Tokyo, March 14, 2012.

Nobody likes to be the one to say “serves you right” and certainly I am against the idea of punishing a nation for the failures of a few, but when Bahrain lost out to Japan yesterday in the Olympic qualifying finals for soccer, I found it hard to suppress a crowing sense of vindication.  When Bahraini citizens started protesting against their leadership last year, the repercussions were swift. Athletes, like the doctors and other professionals who joined themed protests, were singled out for public punishment. As I wrote in January, the nation’s top football players were jailed, tortured and kicked out of their clubs. Many of them now live in exile. The evisceration of Bahrain’s national team, I suggested, doomed the football-mad country’s chances for both the Olympics and the World Cup. So when Bahrain went up against Japan’s team in Tokyo, it was pretty clear the team would be playing injured. They lost, 2-0. Of course justice isn’t always served on the playing field: Syria has one more shot to qualify for the Olympics when it takes on Vietnam later this month. Say what you will about Syrian President Bashar Assad, he hasn’t tortured and jailed his athletes. Yet.