Germany will face Spain with the prospect of an early exit from the World Cup
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: World number 15 Beatriz Haddad Maia crashed out of the US Open on September 4 after she and Kazakh partner Anna Danilina were defeated by the pair of Nicole Melcher Martinez and Alan Perez.
Despite this, Brazilians have developed a growing affection for Maya and many hope she will become the best female tennis player in the country’s history.
Part of her success comes from her formative years at Esporte Clube Sirio, a leading sports and social club in São Paulo, Brazil’s main financial center.
Founded in 1917, the club is one of the greatest examples of the Arab community’s contribution to sports in Latin America.
His first complex included four tennis courts, a basketball court, a soccer field and a lake.
Membership grew rapidly over the years among Syrian and Lebanese immigrants – such as the Haddad family – who created a large community in São Paulo, and the club grew richer. Non-Arab Brazilians soon began to join.
By 1949, Serio had gained a reputation as one of the leading sports clubs in São Paulo and moved to its current location in the southern part of the city, while building a modern complex from scratch.
“I joined the Series as a kid in 1955. I saw most of them being built,” Washington Joseph, 72, better known as Dodi, told Arab News. “My brother and I started playing football, then gymnastics and judo. I started playing basketball at the age of 11.”
Between 1967 and 1982, Dodi, the grandson of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, was one of the greatest basketball players in Brazil and was part of the legendary team that won the World Cup in 1979.
Between the 1950s and 1980s, Serio was one of the biggest basketball teams in Brazil. Many of his players were regularly called up for the national team, which at that time was one of the best in the world.
We had dominance for 30 years, said Dodi. We have won many national championships as well as the South American championship six times.”
Another Arab club, Monte Libano from São Paulo, had a very competitive basketball team.
Sirio took part in the Intercontinental Cup six times and Dodi was part of the team except for the 1984 edition. “We finished third twice, second twice and won once in 1979,” he said.
That year, Brazil hosted the cup. The games drew thousands of basketball fans to the court and were televised across the country.
Sirio reached the final against the Yugoslav club Bosnia. The miraculous victory of the Brazilians 100-98 has never been forgotten.
“Our generation helped a lot in increasing the popularity of basketball in Brazil,” said Dodi. Sirio continued to pioneer basketball until 1995, when the sport in Brazil became highly professionalized and its directors decided that the level of investment required to stay at the top could no longer be sustained.
But Serio did not stop being a school for new athletes. It has had great champions like weightlifter Tamer Haim – who competed at the Summer Olympics in Munich – and tennis player William Kyriakos.
“We also had great fighters in judo and great teams in handball and volleyball,” said Dodi. We still have sports authority,” he said, adding that Cerio’s frequent rival is Deportivo Palastino from Santiago, Chile.
“Especially in the 1950s, matches between the two clubs were highly anticipated,” Carlos Medina Lahcen, a Chilean of Palestinian descent and an expert on the history of Palestine, told Arab News.
Plastino was founded in 1920 as a football club. Medina Lahcen said that because of British influence, Palestinians were already playing football in the Middle East before they migrated to Latin America.
He added that “communities of foreigners started playing sports wanting to integrate into Chilean society, but discrimination at the time was very difficult.”
In 1923, the club gave up football in favor of tennis. Ali Palestino and another Arab club united in the 1940s and continued football during the 1947 partition of Palestine.
During the 1950s, the team received many investments from Palestinian businessmen and became known as “The Millionaires”. In 1955, he won the national football championship.
With the Second Intifada against the Israeli occupation (2000-2005), the interest of many Chilean Palestinians in Palestine grew, and the club saw an increase in the number of new fans.
In 2008, Palestino advanced to the finals of the national championship against Colo-Cola. Although Palestine was defeated, it received widespread attention from Palestinians.
In the age of the Internet, they were stunned by the news of a football club bearing the name of their country. “We heard that people rented cinemas and broadcast the game in the Gaza Strip,” Medina Lahsan said.
Since then, the relationship between the club and Palestine has greatly improved. Chilean players have visited Palestine on many occasions, even the main team has played matches there. Bank of Palestine became a frequent sponsor.
In 2014, Palestine decided to include a full map of Palestine (pre-partition) on their jersey, instead of a single number.
This sparked controversy in Chile, with members of the Jewish community accusing the club of wiping Israel off the map, and many pressuring the national football federation to intervene.
The sports authorities did not consider the symbol to be of a political nature and issued a fine only because the card exceeds the maximum area of the jersey that can display printed content.
Medina Lahcen said: “The club used this shirt all season. To this day, it is the most popular shirt in the history of Palestine.
The documentary “4 Colors”, which tells the history of the club, shows how football strengthened the relationship between Chileans and the Palestinian cause.
Medina Lahcen, who is in charge of researching the film, said: “Many Palestinian fans are not directly part of the Arab community in Chile, but are nonetheless affected by the suffering of Palestinians around the world.”
He discovered that there are sports clubs all over Latin America that bear their Palestinian or Willow names, such as the Palestinian Center in Uruguay and the Palestinian Football Club in Honduras. In Argentina and Chile there are dozens of clubs called Sirio or Sirio Libanes.
One of the leading soccer clubs in Panama is Deportivo Arabe Unido from the city of Colón.
Although the Arab community in Kowloon is not particularly large – it includes about 120 families – it has played a large role in local sports.
Club president Mohamed Hisham told Arab News that Dar Al Uloom University “was founded by Panamanian Arabs in the 1990s, when there was no professional football league in the country. We never thought it would grow this much.”
Since its foundation, the club has been one of the most successful clubs in the Panamanian Premier League, with several national championships. Most of his fans now are not members of the Arab community.
“We had a few players of Arab descent, and the Arab community is very supportive,” Hisham said.
The club is building its new headquarters and sports center, including a social complex.
One of Chacham’s plans for the future is to promote a tournament among Arab football clubs in Latin America. “It would be nice to get them all together,” he said.