Guantánamo

Guantánamo detainees shunned Women’s World Cup

A cooperative captive walks through a recreation yard at Camp 6 prison building at dawn on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
A cooperative captive walks through a recreation yard at Camp 6 prison building at dawn on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

War-on-terror captives here have long been portrayed as soccer fanatics. The sport was so popular that some years ago the military built a $744,000 soccer field outside Camp 6, the prison building for cooperative captives.

Library staff report constant interest in the sport — from requests for old recordings of big matches to near-real time recordings of the 2014 World Cup to video games and magazines about the sport.

However, prison staff reported this week that the Muslim captives expressed no interest in the recent Women’s World Cup tournament in Canada won by Team USA.

No detainee asked in advance to see the games, so nobody taped them, according to the Army lieutenant in charge of detainee diversionary programs, which this week got Play Station 3’s “Pure Futbol” back from a cellblock. Nigeria, Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire were the only Muslim-majority nations in the tournament.

It’s Ramadan, Islam’s holy month when traditional Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and devote themselves to prayer and pure thoughts — pursuits that apparently left no room or interest in women athletes wearing shorts. This is, after all, the place where censors for a time blacked out immodestly clad photos from magazines before now leaving it to the 116 captives to decide whether to look at women in Western films and books. It is the place where, at the library, troops display a National Geographic cover with a woman’s face scribbled out, and blame a detainee for the damage.

“Typical Middle East mentality — thinking soccer is not for the women,” explained Zak, an Arab-American cultural adviser employed by the Pentagon to counsel prison commanders. He’s been at Guantánamo for a decade, slightly less than the majority of captives who arrived in 2002, and wasn’t a bit nonplussed by the non-interest. “Nothing surprises me,” he said.

U.S. troops on the base, however, caught the fever. Several soldiers said they followed the games on cable TV in their townhouses, while dozens of other base residents cheered on Team America’s victory at the base’s Irish pub, O’Kelly’s, on the night of the Cup Final.

Follow @CarolRosenberg on Twitter.

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