Ireland’s defense minister has ordered that soldiers assigned to combat duty in Chad refrain from playing contact sports, including soccer and volleyball, lest they injure themselves on the hard dirt. Sadly, this is not a satire from The Onion.
Conor Ryan, reporting for the Irish Examiner:
Chad may rank among the most hostile missions Irish troops have ever embarked on, but it is no place for soccer or volleyball. Despite the soldiers’ extreme training at Camp Ciara in order to prepare for combat situations, the defence forces have decided contact sports are a step too far.
Defence Minister Willie O’Dea said the decision was made for health and safety reasons. “The reality in Chad is that the ground is extremely hard. Some of the sports are played out on open ground and when people fall, it tends to have a much greater impact on their bodies than falling in a field in Ireland, where the ground is not nearly as hard,” he told the Dáil.
Labour’s Brian O’Shea said the troops had lost a good way to let off steam. But he was told an assessment found the risk of a soldier being sent home with a sports injury was too great.
Mr O’Dea said while soccer, volleyball and other physical sports on the solid Chad sod were dangerous, there was wriggle room once contact was avoided. “While rugby probably is not allowed, as it is a very physical game, football kickabouts are allowed,” he said, adding: “Personnel can engage in running.”
But mightn’t they overhead in the hot African sun? And couldn’t close proximity to other soldiers spread germs?
John Boonstra, writing for UN Dispatch, headlines his post “In Chad, football not okay, rebel assaults still all right.” He adds,
The ground is not too hard — or more importantly, not yet too muddy — for Chadian rebels to attempt, in fits and starts, their annual assault on the capital, N’djamena. Naturally, the latest fighting — in which Chadian rebels were most likely supported by the Sudanese government — occurred just days after Chad and Sudan pledged to halt violence against one another for what seems like the umpteenth time.
The Spectator’s Alex Massie , who titles his post “Irish Army Told They May Only Play Tiddlywinks,” helpfully suggests:
Frankly, many of the world’s problems might be sorted out if the lads were to hand the warring tribes some hurley sticks and tell ’em to get on with it. If hurling can temper barbarism in Offaly and Kilkenny it must have a chance of doing so in Chad or, for that matter, the Hindu Kush…
Certainly, it would be much safer than shooting one another.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.