A leading Mexican columnist has said that journalists in Mexico routinely accept bribes in exchange for coverage, favorable to the government.
Journalists claim that government officials distribute cash and pay for entertainment for certain reporters. Some who are close to the ruling party receive as much as 3,500 dollars a month. That news item set my mind working. What about journalists elsewhere? In America, I know for a fact that if word ever leaked out that a media man took "favors" from anyone in politics, business and industry, his days in the profession would be over. His newspaper too would suffer serious damage to its reputation and credibility. In Western Europe too, there is self-imposed discipline. The members of the fourth estate though entitled to snacks and drinks at political gatherings or embassy receptions, will think twice before lining up pockets with cash in exchange for "beautiful" or "flowery" words about their hosts.
This of course does not mean that of the thousands of Western journalists, there are not some who bend their principles. Greed and temptation are part of human nature just as succumbing to them are.
As I was telling this to a friend, he asked about journalists in the Arab world? What about them? I replied. Don't they too accept bribes? he asked. But who would bribe them? And why? I responded.
"Journalists in the Arab world get two kinds of gifts" - this is a quote from a Western media observer whom I met in Paris in 1984. What are they? I asked him. He never answered and I must confess that 14 years later I haven't still found what he was referring to. Maybe I will search the Internet when I can access it.
The World Cup is truly an international event. As someone who is an avid sports fan and loves to watch international events, I find myself glued to the television. The beauty of the whole month is in viewing every match as if it were a struggle for the championship.
I found the Mexico/Norway encounter very exciting. As was the Chile-Italy match. The France-South Africa encounter kept us glued to our seats. What really made my day, however, was the match between Nigeria and Spain. A resolute Nigerian side charging like African lions toward the Spanish goal reduced the Spanish team to helplessness.
Comparing it to our Saudi team's performance, I could not but feel a twinge of regret. I wished it was our boys who had exhibited that spirit.
As a spectator I was not at all impressed by the Saudi-Danish encounter. It lacked speed, depth and attack. The Danes were obviously the stronger side and the commentators were justifying the results before the match was five minutes old. The ground is wet. (Did we not play enough in Singapore and Malaysia?)
The Danes are tall and well built. (We too have our share of sturdy chaps.) Lack of World Cup experience and much else besides was said.
Now I am not pointing a finger at any one. It was purely a judgment call by the referee or an incorrect substitution. Whatever the case may be, the Saudi side did not play as expected and hoped. Even with minutes remaining and one goal down, they passed the ball sideways and moved at a snail's pace.
My heartbeat was racing! When I watched the speed of the French-South Africa game and the way the French players were moving all over the pitch, I had to stop and think. What next? How are we Saudis going to face the French players speed and agility?
I believe that the time has come for some of our players to become professionals abroad, especially in Europe. In this way they can become accustomed to playing in all kinds of conditions and gain a wealth of valuable experience.
As for us viewers, we must stop chewing our nails. May the best team win and we pray that it will be ours.