Little orange dresses ruffle feathers at the World Cup

It's hard to imagine being criticized -- much less punished -- for taking World Cup spirit too far. Indeed, excess seems to be precisely the name of these games. For anyone who thinks their face-paint masterpieces are prize-worthy, the award for over-the-top aficionado has already been claimed by Sasa Jovic : armed only with a backpack, world map and, of course, his national flag, this Serbian ultra-fan embarked on a 10,000 mile walk to Pretoria to catch his home country's match against Ghana. The Serbs lost 1-0.  No word yet on whether Jovic arrived in time to witness defeat.

As it turns out, however, not every patriotic display is quite so praiseworthy. Thirty women were ejected from Monday's Netherland-Denmark game for "ambush marketing" (a very "serious offense" according to the South Africa Police Service). Their fateful mistake? Too much color-coordination. The fans were caught cheering in identical orange mini-dresses distributed by the Dutch brewery, Bavaria. Under Fifa's strict marketing rules for the Cup, only official sponsors are permitted to advertize at matches-and Budweiser is the only beer on tap at these games. The women, two of whom were summoned to Court on Wednesday (and then released on bail), insist they were just showing Dutch pride, but Fifa claims they were illegally paid to don Bavaria apparel.

The only question left: which is worse, paying your customers to flaunt your logo, or bribing foreigners to root for your team?

David Cannon/Getty Images


Somali government responds to New York Times child soldier story

The Somali government has responded to Jeffrey Gettleman's recent piece in the New York Times, which documented the use of child soldiers in the military of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Goverment.  The e-mailed press release reads:

The Somali President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has expressed strong concern over the recent New York Times report that alleged the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia has recruited child soldiers for its national army.

The President stated that, contrary to the New York Times assertions, the Somali government has not and will not knowingly recruit under-aged youth for the national security forces, because, the President said, "the country is already teeming with thousands of able-bodied men that the government is working hard to demobilize"

Furthermore, President Ahmed reiterated that the Somali Government "is fully committed to upholding existing laws and provisions banning the recruitment of child soldiers."

However, as a charge of such magnitude warrants a thorough scrutiny, the President ordered the army chief "to conduct a full review and to report back to him in four weeks.  The President also instructed the army to demobilize any under-age recruits without delay."

The President finally appealed to the international community to assist the Somali government with the direly needed resources to provide services that could help in the demobilization process of the estimated over one hundred thousand armed militias of all ages that are roaming in the country.

The President pointed out that, "Al Shabab terrorists are the ones who intentionally and many times forcefully enlist underage children for their terror campaigns." It is documented the TFG has actually rescued children from Al-Shabaab and returned them to their families.

As one of the few Western reporters to have gone in and out of Somalia in recent years, Gettleman raised jarring issues in his piece, but the use of child soldiers in and of itself, was -- at least in my mind -- not the most important. That spot is reserved for the questions it raised about U.S. policy toward Somalia -- one that has favored sending weapons to the government with little follow up, as we have reported here at FP. There's no better recipe for outcomes like child soldiering than the blind deposit of weapons into a state already all too plush with guns and all too short on real authority. It would have been more surprising, in fact, if such outcomes as child soldiers were not the result of such a policy.