Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bahrain Sendoff

Just a month after my Bahrain Calling blog entry I did not expect to blog about Bahrain giving up an athlete. But that indeed has happend. The opportunity presented itself with the folly of former Kenyan Leonard Mucheru who morphed to Mushir Salem Jawher of Bahrain only to be striped of his Bahraini citizenship last week and now is stateless and stuck with his Bahraini name.

The story is that Mushir Salem Jawher in his greed committed a crime entering Israel by using his Kenyan passport which he should have surrendered in 2003, when he became a Bahrain citizen. After winning the Tiberias marathon in Israel, he was striped of his Bahraini citizenship, when officials of his new country where embarrassed to find out that a citizen of the Arab country had run a Marathon in Israel. I suppose there is no place like home-sweet-home because last reports on the where about of the stateless runner were that he was hiding in Kenya, afraid of arrest by Kenyan immigration officials for his passport violation. Over the last two days, the IAAF has been working to help this fellow and the IAAF has enlisted Kenyan Athletics Federation in an attempt to help him regain his Kenyan Citizenship. The final decision rests with Kenyan Immigration. You can't help but feel sorry for this dude.

I am glad to say that Ethiopia has not produced such fools. I hope this dude's ordeal serves as an example. While on this subject, I wanted to evaluate the magnitude of this trend in defections. So I went looking for numbers.

What I found was that it's almost impossible to know the number in a broad sense so to find useful numbers one must take a narrow interpretation of the term "change of allegiance". The only useful statistics that I found were kept by the IAAF which tracks when an athlete who has represented a country changes allegiance. Athletes that have never represented their country of origin such as Maryam Yusuf Jamal are not tracked by the IAAF. While the number of athletes that have competed for their country of origin and changed allegiance is limited they represent a heavy investment by the country of origin and defections are significant events. The data in the chart below is for allegiance changes since 1998. Data prior to 1998 is not available and even if it were available I am not sure it would be very useful.

United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and Canada appear on both sides of the chart indicating ease of mobility and the transient nature of allegiance in these counties. So the net loss and gain numbers are more useful are represented in the next chart.

As expected, the countries with the most losses are African nations followed by former Eastern Block nations. Drilling down on Ethiopia, lets take a look at our former athletes. When, who and to where?

Turkey and Great Britain are the top destinations for elite Ethiopian athletes and 1998 was a pretty bad year with 5 athletes changing allegiance. In fact, if we take out 1998 we find that Ethiopia hasn’t lost more than two athletes in any given year.

The following graph has the complete trend line and a comparison of Ethiopian (red) with Kenya(gray) and Morocco(green.)

What is clear is that while we (Ethiopia) lose some athletes there is no mass exodus similar to what Ethiopia experienced in 1998 or what Kenya has recently experienced. Let's hope it stays that way.

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