In Chad, football not okay, rebel assaults still all right

Irish peacekeepers...on solid Irish turfThe Irish Defence Minister has officially banned recreational soccer football for the 400 Irish troops stationed in Chad as part of the UN mission there.

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.

(Not to worry — “indoor judo” is still acceptable, according to the Irish defence brass.)

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.

Chad’s government says it has repelled the attacks — and the rebels insist they are still moving toward N’djamena. The rebels’ gambit seems a little desperate this time around, but the UN has rightly voiced concern about the impact of both the rebel violence and Chad’s reprisal bombings on the country’s stability and the situation of the 300,000 refugees in the east.

In case the fighting gets too close, it’s good to know that at least the Irish peacekeepers can still practice their judo.

(image of Irish peacekeepers, from flickr user EDWARD DULLARD)