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BMW, Al Ain and the UAE National Anthem Debacle

May 31st, 2016 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Football, soccer, The National, UAE

This falls under the heading of a particularly broad category of human events.

To wit:

What were they thinking?!?

Someone at a BMW dealership and someone at Al Ain FC, the most celebrated soccer club in the UAE, thought it would be a good idea to do a commercial spot.

So far so good.

However, the twist in the spot that appeared on UAE television in the past few days was this: The players are singing the national anthem … but dash off the pitch and out of the stadium when they hear the roar of a BMW engine. Omar Abdulrahman, the face of Al Ain club as well as the national team, is pictured just as the players quit singing and begin running for their cars.

In the middle of the national anthem, remember.

Remarkable stuff, and it created a strong backlash in the UAE.

I became aware of this through a tweet posted by Ahdaaf — a blogger who is interested in soccer as it pertains to the Arabian peninsula.

Here is the embedded video which contains the commercial bit as it was first released.

Yeah. A really bad idea.

The commercial bit has been pulled from the air. Also, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, chairman of the Al Ain club, has “suspended” the team’s board of directors as well as the board of the Al Ain Club Investment Company.

Clearly, players quitting the national anthem to go enjoy their BMWs was a really bad idea, and perhaps even a law-breaking one, as this story in The National newspaper, in Abu Dhabi, makes clear.

“Legal advocate Ali Al Hosani said it was illegal to make commercial use of UAE emblems, such as the national anthem and the flag.”

He said: “The video could be considered offensive to the national anthem. You are supposed to stand with respect, not run away from the national anthem for a car. It is unethical.”

The story continued: “Articles found in the Penal Code, Media Law and Constitution relate to the prohibition of such use of UAE emblems” and Al Hosani said “The penalty could vary between jail and/or a fine.”

BMW became Al Ain’s official automotive partner, in a “multimillion dirham deal”, ahead of the recently concluded 2015-16 Arabian Gulf League season.

During that period, the UAE has seen a rise in nationalism in part sparked by a military deployment to the civil war in Yemen, as well as the continuation of a policy of universal male conscription, which did not exist before 2014.

The UAE had not been a particularly nationalistic place until the past few years, but it is making up for lost time.

It continues to lag behind the U.S., in the flag-waving department. In American the national anthem and God Bless America are sung at every baseball game.

But the U.S. has not yet seen a commercial where the New York Yankees run off the field during the “rockets red glare” … to get to their luxury automobiles.



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