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Guardian newspaper trials football website in Arabic

David Sapsted

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LONDON // It is one of the more surprising consequences of the Arab Spring - the emergence this week of football articles in Arabic on a British daily newspaper's website.

An obituary for the late Brazilian captain Socrates, a preview of Wednesday night's Champions League clashes and the thoughts of Valencia's David Albelda on playing against his old pal, Juan Mata, have all appeared on The Guardian's Arabic football site.

The experimental site is a direct consequence of the paper's Arab Spring coverage, which attracted such a wide Middle East audience that The Guardian started publishing articles translated into Arabic on dedicated pages on its website.

These have now been extended to include specially commissioned articles analysing the situation in North Africa and the Middle East by experts on the region.

"During the Arab uprisings, we saw that a great number of residents in the region value and trust The Guardian's journalism, and we are therefore keen to provide these audiences with more of our content," said Katharine Viner, the newspaper's deputy editor. After The Guardian site passed the 50 million-a-month "hit" mark in May - two-thirds of the audience coming from outside the UK - research found extensive interest among Arab readers in football, particularly the English Premier League and the Spanish and Italian leagues.

Tuesday saw the launch of the Football in Arabic site.

It will run on The Guardian website until Saturday but if successful, it could become a regular feature.

Arabic sections on business, arts and culture, fashion and food are also being considered as the "paper eyes an extension of its online readership in the region". "The Football in Arabicseries is an Arabic language experiment, following on from our small-scale Arabic language experiments during the Arab uprisings and the Tunisian and Egyptian elections," said Ms Viner.

"We're very proud of our football coverage and we know that football is hugely popular in the Middle East and North Africa region, so we hope to bring new readers to The Guardian, both from the region and elsewhere."

She said that it was "too soon to say" if Football in Arabic would become a regular feature of The Guardian web pages but "we're very pleased with the traffic so far".

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