From charges of torture in its prisons
to boycotts over children working in its cotton fields
, it's not often that Uzbekistan is praised by an international organization these days.
So President Islam Karimov can hardly be blamed for running with his country's most positive appearance in the world's headlines in a long time -- FIFA's 2012 Fair Play Award for the country's national soccer team
While chairing a cabinet meeting on January 18, Karimov declared that the world could learn something from the Uzbek way of doing things, according to Uzbek state television:
"Taking into account that all of us are fond of football and the fact that the FIFA has recognized the Uzbek football, we can say that all our efforts are now producing good results. Therefore, I feel great to congratulate you on the success. So, will you join me, if I tell you that others should learn fairness from the Uzbek people?" the president asked, smiling.
According to FIFA, world soccer's governing body, the award was a result of the good behavior of the national team and the country's clubs participating in Asian Football Confederation tournaments. The award also recognizes good fan behavior.
The other two nominees were the Guatemalan Football Federation and the Turkish team Eskisehirspor.
Mirabrar Usmanov, the head of Uzbekistan's soccer federation, accepted the award at the annual Ballon d'Or Gala in Zurich on January 7.
Now, if only the Uzbek leader could work on some positive press for his country's treatment of foreign investors
or its action on high-level corruption
. Then Karimov would really have something to crow about.
-- Dan Wisniewski