Posted by: Christian | September 5, 2007

“Balls of Blasphemy,” And Other Assorted Hyperbole

September 6, 2007.

About a month ago, the bloggers over at postpolitical embedded a rather entertaining video that shows soccer balls being dropped from a Blackhawk helicopter.

And then the Los Angeles Daily News ran a story about some anti-war hippie who was rounding up soccer balls in California and sending them to Afghan kids via the above delivery method. And all seemed well, insofar as soccer balls were falling from the sky into the hands of Afghan kids. One serviceman even remarked:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in 15 years, Afghanistan wins the World Cup and the star player says, “I owe it all to a soccer ball that fell from a Black Hawk?”

Pic: “Yay! Free footballs!”

soccer afghanistan

And then something bad happened. According to the BBC, about 100 people demonstrated in Khost out of anger that the Saudi flag was on some of the footballs. The Saudi flag has the Shuhada (declaration of faith) written on it. So some people have made the case that kicking a ball with the Shuhada on it is not cool. In my opinion, the BBC article is generally fair. They don’t overstate the case or over exaggerate the amount of anger in Afghanistan. (Although, as someone pointed out somewhere else, it seems that the BBC has digitally altered the photo of one of the balls).

Pic: Nice use of the blur tool.

Football dropped by US troops

Joshua Foust at Registan and Preeti Aroon at the Foreign Policy Passport blog both have quick comments to make about the issue. Neither of them seem particularly over-concerned, aside from suggesting that well-meaning troops might want to check out their projects with some sort of cultural adviser. Aroon mentions that the Saudi government complained about the use of its flag on balls several years back. I would suggest that the Saudi royal family has done far worse to the flag.

Pic: Not one of the balls dropped.

The story was quickly picked up from the Associated Press by The Washington Post, CBS and Fox. In the AP story the US military representatives apologized to all those offended. And they seemed to tell governor Jamal that they bought these particular balls in the bazaar. Which is very surprising because you can’t buy anything unIslamic in the bazaar, nothing at all. Just in the same way that there is nothing unChristian for sale in America.

Another press wire, Agence France-Press, estimated the crowd of protesters to be “a few dozen.” But the BBC TV report, seen here, shows about a hundred people plus some curious onlookers. And in a very non-ironic twist, the angry Mullah leading the protest seems to be named “Deobandi.” [the report names him as “Shafi Rahman Dewbandi.”] A superficial wikipedia article on “Deobandi” is here.

Pic: The blasphemers.


But the true “entertainment” comes from those on the American left and right. A simple mention of the incident over at The Huffington Post leads to much crazy ranting by commenters, culminating with a question asked by Wade Nelson:

“No wonder they are mad. How would YOU like the flag of Saudi Arabia inscribed on YOUR balls?”

Over to the other side, the always subtle and nuanced Michelle Malkin blogged the incident and, after berating the US military for its “ridiculous groveling” apology, remarked about Muslims:

“…they’re pretty damned “sensitive” (read: ready to riot) about everything.” [her parentheses, not mine]

Her commenters are actually more “sensitive” (read: attempting to offend) than Michelle is, but you will have to scroll down past the Koran in the toilet to read those comments. But to be completely honest, the beautiful make their own rules, and I just have to live with that.

Pic: Mrs. Malkin


About as subtle as Malkin is the popular Little Green Footballs blog, which remarks that Muslims are “prone to murderous rage ” over misuse of the Shuhada. There are at the present time 486 comments on LGF. I’m sure all of them are calls for moderation and understanding.

And about 15 months ago, the folks over at Jihad Watch, who I assume watch a lot of Jihad, predicted riots in no particular location over this ball featuring the Shuhada below. Fortunately, all that resulted was about a hundred worked-up young men in Khost.

Pic: Check out the neighbor to the left.


What do the soccer ball droppers have to say for themselves? Well, apparently they have a blog and Princeton Soh, a pilot, said this:

I didn’t realize what effect dropping that ball would have nor had I imagined the commotion that resulted from one single soccer ball.

I will admit that I had no idea of what the Saudi flag looked like before this. I will also admit that there are very few flags that I would be able to pick out from all of the countries that participated in the World Cup. I do not read Arabic, I can’t speak it. I barely know where it is on the map. When I got the ball in the mail my first thought was that it would be a neat gift to some kid who likes soccer enough to know what countries participated in the World Cup. Apparently, I was wrong. I’ve offered to trade the ball for a different one. I have lots of other kinds…red, green, blue, even pink. So far, I’ve gotten no takers.

For right now, the operation is on temporary hold. I hope to start dropping balls again soon though.

Pic from Operation Soccer Chopper blog:


When I started writing this bog entry I had some sort of profound social commentary to make (possibly). But I can’t remember what it was. So I’ll just say that that I don’t think most Afghans wake up with some sort of strong desire to get angry and riot. And I don’t think many foreign soldiers wake up with a strong desire to offend Afghans. I think this incident was quite minor, and I can’t believe how much attention it received considering the other more important concerns in Afghanistan.


  1. […] American bloggers blew the incident entirely out of proportion. Afghanistanica found some of the more outrageous examples: [T]he always subtle and nuanced Michelle Malkin blogged […]


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