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Foreign Policy: Are Soccer Players Crusaders?

Members of Manchester United i

Members of Manchester United attend a training session in Hangzhou, east Chinas Zhejiang province, Saturday, July 25, 2009. AP hide caption

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Members of Manchester United

Members of Manchester United attend a training session in Hangzhou, east Chinas Zhejiang province, Saturday, July 25, 2009.

AP

Last Friday's Jakarta bombings, which killed nine people, were the first attacks in almost four years in the Indonesian capital, and this time, the targets were not just foreign businessmen, but also the famous Manchester United football club. A blog post purportedly from terrorist leader Noordin Mohammed Top, who is wanted for both last week's attacks and several attacks from 2002-04 (including the Bali nightclub bombing that killed over 200) reads, ""The [Manchester United] club consists of players who are Crusaders and therefore they did not deserve to play in a Muslim country."

Given the recent behavior of their top stars, the equating of the "Red Devils" with religious warriors amuses football fans everywhere outside of the Greater Manchester area (and plenty of people inside of it as well). Even so, the actual danger to the team was small; the bombings took place several days before Manchester United was supposed to arrive in Jakarta, and even if the message is authentic, it's impossible to tell whether Top is merely trying to claim more headlines after the fact. But in the long-term, the threat is likely to have significant implications for international sports, as top teams will have to step up security, particularly while traveling to other countries, and events like the Olympics, which already require massive security budgets, will likely have to spend even more.

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