When Is a Bet not a Bet? A Day at Iran’s Races

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mitra Amiri

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Jockeys whip their horses during the final stretch of the race during the summer races at the Norouzabad Equestrian center on the outskirts of Tehran September 16, 2011. Under Islamic sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels. Picture taken September 16, 2011.        

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

NOWRUZABAD, Iran, Nov 2 (Reuters) – As Rio Collection galloped across the finishing line, Sardar hooted with joy and high-fived his friends.

He had just won 200,000 rials (almost $20). Not by “betting” on the horse, he insisted — betting is illegal under Iran’s Islamic law — but by “predicting” Rio Collection would win.

“I knew he would win. I predicted correctly,” said the 18-year-old.

Under Islamic Sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal and Sardar’s wager, made with a friend, was actually not permitted. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels.

The Koran describes gambling as “evil, unclean and Satanic” and people found guilty of illegal gambling in the Islamic Republic can be sentenced to flogging and jail.

However, three forms of gambling are permitted under Islam, said a cleric consulted on the matter by Reuters.

“All forms of gambling are haram (forbidden by Islam) except for horse racing, camel racing and archery,” said Mohsen Mahmoudi, a cleric at a north Tehran mosque, adding that those manly, warrior sports were all encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad (s).

But technically, he added, only the archery contestants and riders of the horses or camels in the races are permitted to bet.

To make it possible for spectators to take part, the Equestrian Federation of Iran sought permission from senior clerics known as “sources of emulation”, to whom Shi’ite Muslims turn for guidance on moral issues.

“In negotiations with some sources of emulation , we finally managed to receive permission to bet on horses under certain conditions,” said Ebrahim Mohammdzadeh, an official at Tehran’s horse-racing committee.

The way it works is that jockeys authorise the horse-racing committee to place bets for other people on their behalf.

MASS APPEAL

In pre-revolutionary Iran, horse riding was considered an elite sport. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — the last shah who was overthrown in the 1979 uprising led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — was a keen horseman and aimed to expand racing.

After the revolution the idea fell out of favour and today there are only four racetracks in the country. Camel racing — popular in some Arab countries across the Gulf — is not a significant sport in Iran and archery has no great popular following.

The 2,000-capacity Nowruzabad track off a major highway to the west of Tehran is the only track easily accessible to the population of the capital. It hold races over a 10-week season each year.

Despite its limited availability, people from many walks of life crowd the “predictions” office next to the track in Nowruzabad where legal betting takes place inside a building where an electronic screen advertises: “Make a prediction, win a prize”.

Inside, a dozen women, wearing obligatory headscarves, sit behind windows, taking predictions and paying out winnings. As well as a computer screen with race details, each has a basket into which they toss the takings.

Prediction tickets can be bought for as little as 10,000 rials (around $1) with no official upper limit, although large bets are rare. Odds are not given before the race and returns are calculated afterwards.

People can also place bets on horses through the federation’s website, but that misses out on the spectacle.

As the horses pass the finishing line, the spectators — including dozens of women — jump up from their seats near the track and rush to the predictions office to see how much they have won and place money on the next one.

“I just paid 50,000 rials. I hope I can win something,” said Erfan, 15.

“I always buy prediction tickets from this office but my dad bets directly with others,” he said. “He once won 30 million rials.”

Betting among individuals is not legal but still goes on.

Wearing loose black trousers and speaking with a strong local accent, Sardar, a carpenter, said he chose not to buy prediction tickets as winnings were limited.

“People are reluctant to place big bets with the prediction office,” he said . “Big bets take place unofficially and the winnings are exchanged from hand-to-hand.”

The really big bets happen at bigger tracks, particularly at the 10-000 capacity Gonbad-e Kavoos hippodrome in northern Iran.

“Last year someone won $75,000 there in a bet,” a race official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cleric Mahmoudi warned of the dangers of gambling.

“The bettor makes gains easily, without working and this causes others to lose money with consequent dissatisfaction and grief,” he said, pointing out one reason Islam regards gambling as “haram”.

Most of the people buying prediction tickets legally from the racetrack office did not seem concerned, however.

“I just lost 30,000 rials but I had a lot of fun,” said fine arts student Tamanna, 30, showing her ticket printed with a line that says cash spent buying the ticket goes to support the horse races, rather than in the hope of winning.

Of the total money coming into the official betting office, some 70 percent is given out as winnings with the remaining 30 percent going to cover the costs of racing.

“I had a great time,” Tamanna said. “In a way we are donating this money to help develop the races.”

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Gentlemen…Start Your Engines!

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“Automobiles are not ferocious…. it is man who is to be feared.”

~Robbins B. Stoeckel

lewis-karting_32_m-680x454As further evidence that the global economic turndown has not affected most wealthy Arab nations, give or take a couple of debt-riddled locales, a new endurance motoring activity will be taking place in Kuwait City at the end of this month (November 24-26). Courtesy of “Gulf Run”, who has brought some of the most mind-jarring motor races to the region, the newest moto-sport is called “The 26 Hour Endurance Gulf Run Karting” Race. Basically, it pits man against machine in a breathtaking 26 hours around the track to see who can withstand the endless circling, keep up pace with other drivers without crashing and go on to claim that checkered flag.

With a $4,300 price tag per team, the karting race is neither for the financially challenged nor the faint hearted. Registration is currently open for teams and the ticket price includes the use of a twin engine Honda Pro Kart for the duration of the race, spare parts, pit crew area, gas and other fluids, use of the track and access to a full-equipped medical team on site as well as the fire brigade just in case of any mishaps on the track. Teams can be made up of up to 12 drivers with a minimum of 4 drivers per team. Each team is allowed to wear their own logo emblazoned t-shirts and can even cover the car with sponsor’s decals, however such marketing efforts count as “out of pocket” costs.

Safety during the course of the event is of the utmost importance to Gulf Run organizers. The rules stipulate that all drivers must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Each driver will also be given special instructions regarding safety features, the rules and proper conduct expected during the race.  The UK Marshalls will oversee the event in accordance with current FIA regulations. Teams who ignore safety rules or intentionally interfere with the course of the race will be disqualified.

The course will be set up at the Mishref fairgrounds and a special village will be ready by race day to tend to the needs of both drivers and spectators alike. According to the Gulf Run website the 26 hour endurance race will require, “… mental and physical preparation and of course a good strategy within your team is the key to success. If you join to have fun, to do something new, or to compete professionally, it will be an amazing adventure you will never forget. See you at the track.”  Blogs and local media outlets will be covering the event, which is the first of its kind in Kuwait.

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Mohammed Traore Excels in Academics & Athletics

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IOWA CITY, IA–Excellence in academics & athletics is quite a feat and Mohammed Traore, a City High School junior, is proving how to do it. With hard work and perseverance he is a rising star both on and off the field. A profile published in the Press-Citizen documents his success.

Traore is at the top of his class and is receiving high rankings on track and field and cross-country running. Traore is taking classes such as AP calculus, AP biology and honors-level chemistry, which he finds beneficial.

“I hope one day to go into the biomedical or biochemical field,” he told the Press-Citizen. He has received multiple admission offers from several universities. Life is on track for Mohammed Traore.

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Saints Sign Quddus from Fordham

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

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File: Lehigh’s Michael Colvin scoots past Fordham’s Isa Abdul-Quddus.

Fordham University safety Isa Abdul Quddus has been added to the New Orleans Saints’ list of undrafted rookie free agents.  Quddus is a 6’ 1” 200-pound safety that played four seasons for the Fordham Rams.  Quddus started out playing cornerback for Fordham but was moved to safety entering his senior season.

Quddus led the Rams in total tackles in 2010 with 70 stops.  50 of his tackles were solo stops, and he also had six pass break ups and three forced fumbles in 2010.  Quddus also returned one kickoff for the Rams for 29 yards during his senior season.

Per his biography on the Fordham University athletic department website, Quddus is a graduate of Union High School in Union, New Jersey where he lettered in football and track. He was a First Team All-County and Second Team All-State selection in football as a senior. He was named to the New Jersey Coaches Super 100 Team. In his high school career he made over 100 tackles in both his junior and senior season. On the track team, he won the county championship in the 100m as a senior (10.9). He also took third place in the 200m (22.6). He was named First Team All-County in track in 2005.
Sports Illustrated describes his positives: “Athletic safety prospect who is at his best defending the run. Breaks down well, strong at the point of attack, and wraps up tackling. Quickly breaks to the action out of his plant, physical, and works hard to get involved and make plays.”

Sports Illustrated further states, “Abdul-Quddus possesses the size/speed numbers to play at the next level and has shown enough football skills to be given looks in camp this summer. He must quickly pick up his play in coverage though, as he’s often a liability against the pass.”

Isa is a Business Administration major. He has one sibling, a brother named Rafiqu.

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