Iraq United: How football is uniting Iraq


Blackleaf
#1
Football (or "sacker" as North Americans call it), the world's greatest and most popular team sport, is helping to unite Iraqis. Saddam's downfall seems to be working wonders for the Iraqi national team. For the first time ever, the Iraq football team has reached the Final of the Asian Cup. Their previous best in the tournament was finishing fourth in 1976. In the Final they will play Saudi Arabia, the winners becoming Asian Champions. Saddam's football-mad son Uday used to torture members of the football team whenever they played badly or lost (once Uday forced the team to play with a concrete football and even dragged behind cars), and it was probably their fear of doing badly during a match that stopped them becoming successful. Now that Uday and Saddam are dead the football team is now playing without fear of being tortured and therefore they could soon be crowned Asian Champions for the first time.

How football is uniting Iraq



The "Lions of Mesopotamia" - The Iraq team have their photos taken before an Asian Cup game



By TIM SPANTON
July 27, 2007
The Sun


IN A country ripped apart by violence it is the one thing that seems to unite them – Football.

Amazingly, Iraq’s national football team, nicknamed the Lions of Mesopotamia, have reached the final of the Asian Cup.

Yet even more surprising than their unexpected success on the pitch is the way in which it has united the country’s three main warring factions — the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.

People whose only common ground used to be mutual hatred are now gathering together to watch their team on flickering TV screens powered by private generators to beat Iraq’s frequent blackouts.


Jorvan Vieira ... Iraq's manager


Iraq meet three-times winners Saudi Arabia in Sunday’s final in Indonesian capital Jakarta.

The team used to be run by Saddam Hussein’s football-mad son Uday.

Unfortunately, he was mad in other ways too. Players who failed to perform to his expectations were tortured.

Once the squad were made to play a game with a concrete football.

Players were beaten and even dragged behind a car.

Haiydar Adnan, a 29-year-old Shia fan, said: “Iraqi footballers used to play because they were afraid of Uday but now they play out of pride. They play for their country.

“The Iraqi team is the only thing uniting us now. When the team win a game, the people in Karkh, who are Sunnis, get happy and the people in Rusafa, who are Shias, get happy.

“I hope the politicians will look at these simple football players who manage to unite the Iraqi people and learn from them.”

The team’s best previous finish in the Asian Cup was fourth in 1976.

This time round they were expected to go out in the early stages after the squad was riven by sectarian divisions.

Then, just two months before the competition kicked off, the Iraq football federation had a stroke of genius — it hired a Brazilian as manager.

Jorvan Vieira, 54, told his players: “I don’t know whether each of you is Sunni or Shia or Kurdish — and I don’t want to know.”

The players, all of whom have lost close relatives in the violence that has engulfed Iraq, united on the pitch.

The fans responded back home and their voices are now urging political leaders to follow the players’ example and put their differences behind them.

Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Hassan, a 40-year-old Shia in the Education ministry, joined three old Sunni friends to watch Iraq’s 2-0 quarter-final win over one of the joint hosts, Vietnam.

“It’s the first time I have seen my friends in two years,” said the dad-of-three, who now lives in a solely Shia area of north Baghdad.

“We kissed and hugged one another and recalled our days when we played together for a local team.”

Salim Alwan, a 30-year-old Sunni, drove 30 minutes to a Shia area to watch the same game with former pals he usually only speaks to on the phone.


Iraqi team celebrate a goal

He said: “I spent the night there then came back the next day after they accompanied me with their car for my safety.”

At the same time in largely Shia Basra, which is under British Army control, Iraqis from all backgrounds watched the game in a casino.

Marwan Ahmed, a 23-year-old Sunni tailor, said: “It was the most beautiful day in Iraq over the past four years.

“All the people at the casino congratulated one another, even those who were strangers.

“I felt like this team helped clean our hearts from hatred as we were all thinking only of Iraq and nothing else.”

The Iraqi underdogs went on to beat fancied South Korea 4-3 on penalties in Wednesday’s semi-final.

Sadly, celebrations were marred by violence — deliberate and accidental. Two suicide bombers killed at least 50 revellers in separate attacks in Baghdad.

The attacks are thought to have been by hardline Sunnis who oppose football because players dress “immodestly” in shorts.

Three more people died and at least 17 were wounded by stray bullets fired in celebration.

But manager Jorvan Vieira stresses the positives of what his players have overcome.

He said: “I don’t have one person who hasn’t lost someone from their family because of this war.

“But they never mix politics with the team — they never talk about it.

“My assistant coach was living in Baghdad but one day he was driving his car and was stopped.

“They stole his car and said, ‘If you don’t go, we will kill you.’ He had to leave Baghdad. It’s crazy.”

The team trained and played their warm-up matches in neighbouring Jordan. “Some of the players, if they go back to Iraq, they are going to be killed,” said Jorvan, who was raised a Roman Catholic but converted to Islam while coaching in Morocco.

“But for now everyone is happy and we have reason to be happy because our latest victory has brought us to the final.

“We deserved that. My boys have worked very hard.”

Even if the team lose to favourites Saudi Arabia on Sunday, they have already created history.

Goalkeeper Noor Sabri, 23, who plays his club football in Iran, said: “Four days before we came to the finals my wife’s brother was killed.

“We have to struggle. We know we are struggling inside Iraq and we are struggling to do our best on the playing field.

“It is a very modest thing we can give to our people but we have to show them we are sharing all what we are achieving here. This is historic for football in our country.”

The stepmother of Hawar Mohammed, a 24-year-old Kurdish midfielder, was also killed shortly before the tournament.

“Everyone knows the current circumstances in Iraq,” he said sadly.

“We’ve managed to unify the Iraqi people when we win.

“Even when a curfew was imposed by the authorities, Iraqis went out on the streets and in cafes to watch the matches.

“All of these things are important for us and encourage us to achieve and bring happiness to our people.”

Politicians are eager to congratulate the players.

Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, told the team: “You flew high the Iraqi flag. You created happiness with the participation of all Iraqis.”

And President Jalal Talabani said the team’s victories are “a source of pride for Iraqis of all sects”.

So, whatever the result on Sunday’s final, the team’s goal would have been achieved.

IRAQ'S RESULTS IN THE ASIAN CUP

Thailand 1-1 Iraq
Suksomkit 6 (pen)..........Mahmoud 32

Iraq 3-1 Australia
Akram 23................Viduka 47
Mohammed 60
Jassim 86

Oman 0-0 Iraq

Group A Final standings

Team..........Points
Iraq.............5
Australia.......4
Thailand.......4
Oman...........2

Quarter Final

Iraq 2-0 Vietnam
Mahmoud 2,66


Semi-Final

Iraq 0-0 South Korea
(After Extra Time, Iraq win 4-3 on penalties)


Final

Iraq VS Saudi Arabia


thesun.co.uk
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jul 28th, 2007 at 05:08 AM..
 
gopher
No Party Affiliation
#2
They announced on this radio this afternoon that Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 and won the Championship. When interviewed, the Iraqi captain said the USA should immediately pull out of Iraq!

How's that for gratitude?

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!
 
thomaska
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

They announced on this radio this afternoon that Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 and won the Championship. When interviewed, the Iraqi captain said the USA should immediately pull out of Iraq!

How's that for gratitude?

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

Ahhh..I'd be more than happy to have us all out of there and leave them to their own 7th century devices.
 
gopher
No Party Affiliation
#4
Good idea --- eventually, as in Vietnam, they will settle their own problems on their terms. And that's as it should be.
 
thomaska
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by gopher View Post

Good idea --- eventually, as in Vietnam, they will settle their own problems on their terms. And that's as it should be.

I agree, even though the douchebags in both of our wonderful political parties will throw blame at each other for decades to come, perhaps more kids will be able to know both of their parents because they haven't been blown to kingdom come by some religious fanatics, over a liquid that powers a stinking car.
 
Dreadful Nonsense
#6
Iraqis were told not to shoot of their weapons in celebration...4 people were killed do to stray bulletts....
 
JoeSchmoe
#7
Good for the Arab champs. Sad that more people had to die to celebrate a victory.

America should be sending in MORE troops... not pulling out. The USA created this mess, so they should be sending in millions of soldiers to quell the situation. The draft is the only answer. They can't do it with their military stretched so thin. Draft a few million Americans and send them to Iraq.... doesn't matter if a hundred thousand die as long as they get the job done. There just aren't enough troops to deal with the situation.
 
Impetus
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

America should be sending in MORE troops... not pulling out. The USA created this mess, so they should be sending in millions of soldiers to quell the situation. The draft is the only answer. They can't do it with their military stretched so thin. Draft a few million Americans and send them to Iraq.... doesn't matter if a hundred thousand die as long as they get the job done. There just aren't enough troops to deal with the situation.

Well, one or the other anyhow...a draft would help the Americans think twice (once?) before they vote next time!

Muz
 
gopher
No Party Affiliation
#9
There's no need for a draft --- just impose a 100 % excess profits tax on all war profits. That will end the war overnight!
 
gopher
No Party Affiliation
#10
BTW, what the hell is ''sacker''???

Never heard of that word before. Never.
 
Toro
#11
Blowing up people celebrating a soccer triumph is a really bad way to get the population on your side.