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:
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