Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Iraq miss out on medal

Thessaloniki, Greece, FootballAsia.com

Iraq’s attempt to win Asia’s first footballing Olympic medal since 1968 came to a disappointing end on Friday when Adnan Hamd’s men were beaten by Italy in the third place play-off.

The defeat means Iraq, who reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup at the end of July, have nothing to show for an adventure which captured the hearts of millions of people around the world.

After losing to Paraguay in the semi-final, Iraq needed to beat Italy to equal Japan’s bronze medal-winning performance, achieved at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, but an early headed goal from Alberto Gilardino, who plays for Parma in Serie A, proved the difference between the two teams.

Hamd took the decision to drop Younis Mahmoud and Emad Mohammed for the final game, but their absence did not seem to trouble the Asian Cup quarter-finalists, who had several chances to level the scores in the opening 15 minutes.

Striker Razzaq Farhan had the first real chance but the he shot straight at Italy goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli when through on goal.

A minute later, Qusai Munir’s header was parried by Pelizzoli and the follow-up was smashed against the bar.

Hawar Mulla Mohammed was denied by the woodwork on 18 minutes but it was the Italian keeper who proved the difference between the two sides, especially in the second half.

Italy could have doubled their lead in the 69th minute when Gilardino capitalised on an error by Haidar Jabar before lobbing ahead Iraq keeper Noor Sabri but the ball bounced inches wide to keep Iraqi hopes alive.

Hamd threw on Emad and Mahmoud but it was not to be as Iraq’s hopes of winning their second Olympic medal came to naught.

“In view of the circumstances, reaching the semi final is a major achievement," Hamd said after the game.

“We wanted to at least get the bronze to bring happiness for our people but although I think we were the better team, in the end we could not.

Source: Footballasia

Friday, August 27, 2004

Athens 2004: Coach Adnan Hamad's Comments after Paraguay Match

Johannesburg, by Maithem Al Anbari

Iraqi olympic team's Coach Adnan Hamad accused team's strikers of missing many opportunities and thus led the Iraqi team to loose the match against Paraguay.

"We missed a lot of opportunities, however, Paraguay was better on the day and that's why they won. Now we are going to try and win the bronze medal and should we make it, it will be a great achievement", Hamad told reporters in a press conference after the match

He added that a success of that magnitude will be uplifting for Iraq which faces a difficult situation.

Back to the match Adnan said "My players wanted to win badly, but they were influenced by the stress to win. However, the first goal had a very negative impact on all of them and the stress became even more intense."

Adnan elaborated that the team lacks experience due to the fact that there are no competitions held in Iraq and "We donâ??t have stadiums or facilities and thatâ??s why we are proud for the level of football we have played."

At the end Adnan called on the kidnappers of the Italian journalist to release him. "We want to send a message to those who abducted him. They should let him return to his family. We are all brothers, we are all humans, we donâ??t have anything against the Americans or any other people for that matter, although our country has been destroyed."

Monday, August 23, 2004

Iraq win Olympic pride on the pitch

Baghdad, BBC Sport

It is late night on the streets of Baghdad. You can see the red lights of the tracer bullets as they are across the sky. Gunfire is common here. This time though, it's in celebration.

I walk into a cafe on the banks of the River Tigris. There's a television with a bad signal in one corner. The Iraqi commentator is getting excited. So too are the men watching. Then I hear the roar of "Gooooaaaaaaal!" The men jump up, cheering, huge smiles, hugging and kissing one another. Perhaps if we keep winning we'll be able to forget the past and move on Young Baghdad footballer "The Iraqi people is holding its head high because of this," one man explains. "We're so proud of the team." Iraq's footballers are defying all the odds. Their country is in the grip of violence. Last year their president was removed from power. They have little money, bad training facilities, and yet still they are through to the Olympic quarter finals. Fancied They have beaten Portugal - the team which were runners up in the European football championships this summer. Iraq qualified for the knock-out rounds top in their group

They came top of their group. And now they must be fancied against Australia in the quarter finals. In Basim al-Haji's sports shop in Baghdad, business is finally looking better thanks to the team. Ever since the overthrow of Saddam the last thing on people's minds has been buying sport's gear. But now things are improving. "Demand has been going up anyway thanks to the Olympics. But now so many people are coming in to buy the new Iraqi football shirt." "With every good result we sell more." Mortar attacks Iraq's victories are all the more incredible when you travel across Baghdad to see the national stadium.

It is desolate, neglected, and locked away behind barbed wire. The last time the national side played here was when Saddam was in power. The players are affected by what's happening here. But if they play well it will inspire the whole country to work together

Najah Hamoud,Former Iraq coach

In recent weeks mortars have fallen around the stadium. During Olympic qualifiers the opposition refused to come to play in Baghdad. It was just too dangerous they said. So Iraq's new football stars have not played a single home game.

Najah Hamood is a former national coach, now a member of the Iraqi Football Association. "Of course the players are affected by what's happening here," he says. "We're trying to tell them if they play well then that will inspire the whole country to work together." "Perhaps footballing victory can help re-build our country."

Long shot Back on the banks of the Tigris the football stars of the future are training. The sun is low, about to set, dripping gold and orange over the players. They kick up the dust as they run down the makeshift pitch.

Football has long been a passion in Iraq Overhead US helicopters patrol, drowning out the sound of their shouts. A reminder of the war that continues to affect their lives.

During half time one of the boys tells me: "If we make it to the next round then everybody will be happy." "Perhaps if we keep winning we'll be able to forget the past and move on." He gives half a smile, as if he knows it is a long shot. Across Iraq they are hoping their side continues to win. But already the squad has done its country proud.

Source: BBCSport

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Iraq's fairytale goes on

Johannesburg, by Maithem Al-Anbari

When Iraqi football team came to Athens, nobody thought for a moment that they will make it to the semi-final. However, after a historical victory over the professional Portugal’s team, media started to shed light on this Middle East team’s story while sport officials expressed their admiration of players came from a war-torn country in which their main stadium has been occupied by the US tanks to top their group and heading to the quarter final.

“Iraq’s performance in this tournament is impressive. We hope they can achieve something”, Mohammed bin Hamam, Chairperson of the Asian Football Commission (AFC) told reporters.

For Iraqis this victory is like a breeze in a hot summer. People have suffered a brutal regime for more than 30 years and then their country is being occupied by the US and UK, yet their well has taken them from one victory to the other.

“We are proud of this achievement. Iraqi people celebrated the whole night and forgot about all their miseries and difficulties”, said Hussein Saeed, Head of the Iraq’s Football Association, adding that “after the qualification to the second round, we called upon our people to reunite and overcome all the difficulties”.

In Iraqi cities, sounds of shootings have been heard, but this time there is nothing but a smile because everybody knows that these are celebration bullets.

Expatriate Iraqis have their say also. Hundreds of them gathered in Edgware Road in London in UK and Nürnberg in Germany to celebrate the new victory. The same thing happened last night in Montréal where hundreds of Iraqis went down to the streets waving flags, jumping, dancing and crying.

“I can’t describe my feelings now. Its confusing….. I have two contradicted feelings. We are worried about our families in Iraq because of the fierce fighting there, however we are happy to see that Iraq is back to its achievements without fear from punishment”, said one of the Iraqis celebrating in Montréal.

Mohammed and Ali were hugging each other and crying. Smiles and tears on their faces have summarised the whole story. “What they (Iraqi players) are doing now is like a miracle. This is not a real story of a team accomplishes something in a tournament….No; it’s a fairytale story of people build everything out of nothing”, said Mohammed.

Iraq through to last four

Heraklio, Greece, Footballasia.com

Iraq's fairytale run in Greece continued after a narrow 1-0 quarter-final victory over Australia enabled the middle-eastern side to reach the semi-finals of the Men Olympic Football Tournament for the first time.

Participating in the Olympics for the first time since 1988, Adnan Hamad's side have given their countrymen something to cheer about courtesy of an overhead kick by Emad Mohamed in the 64th minute and the brilliant form of 20-year-old Noor Sabri in goal at the Pankritio Stadium.

Australia went into the game without key players Craig Moore, Tim Cahill and Ahmad Elrich who were serving suspensions after picking up their second cautions in the last group match against Argentina and their absence was sorely felt by Frank Farinaâ??s side.

However, despite Iraqâ??s early dominance, it was the Oceania side which had the first shot at goal on the half hour when Anthony Danze beat Bassim Abbas to a header only to see Noor Sabri pulling off a super save.

Sabri had to repeat his heroics in the second half when Australian midfielder Alex Brosque attempted a lob over Sabri for what seemed a certain opening goal in the 48th minute.

However, the Al Quwa Al Jawiya custodian scampered back to punch the ball away. The ball fell to Brosque who was denied by another save by Sabri.

When Australia did manage to beat the in form custodian, Perth Glory midfielder Danzeâ??s goal was ruled out for offside. The Iraqi custodian kept his side in the game in the 59th minute when he saved a looping header by John Aloizi.

Sabriâ??s heroics paid off five minutes later when Emad Mohammed scored with a lovely bicycle-kick after substitute Mahdi Karim had chipped the ball into the box in the 64th minute.

Australia responded almost immediately but a stunning shot from skipper Luke Wilkshire which beat Sabri only rocked the bar in the 66th minute.

Iraq came close to doubling their lead in the 74th minute when the substitute striker Razzaq Farhan broke into the area but was denied by Australian goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.

Although the Australians surged forward relentlessly towards the end, they were denied by Iraqi defenders who were brilliantly led by Bassim Abbas and Qusai Munir.

Iraq will meet the winners of the other quarter-final between Paraguay and Korea Republic.

Hamd admitted it was not an easy encounter for his side. â??We were tired and the weather was very humid. I'm proud of my players and I hope that we can complete the victory and qualify to the final.â??

â??Now that we have reached the semi finals, we have to play against another good team. I think that the spirit of the players is on fire and we have a good chance to win a medal.â??

Friday, August 20, 2004

Iraq vs Australia

Johannesburg, by Maithem Al- Anbari

Iraqi team, the 'dark horse' in the Olympic's football tournament will start the second round of their advanture by playing against Australia in the semi-final tomorrow.

The football team of war-torn Iraq have qualified to this round as top of group 'D' after beating Portugal 4-2 and Costa rica 2-0; but they lost their last match to Morroco 1-2.

"We played the last match with B-team. We qualified and this match would not affect this qualification, The idea was to avoid any injury or cards for any of our players", Adnan Hamad, Iraqi team couch told reporters yesterday.

Talking about the circumstances in Iraq and the importance of these wins for the Iraqi People, Hamad said "We're delighted by the victories because we know what it means to our people." For his part, Iraqi player Hawar Mulla Mohahmmed said "Our success here has been very important for our people and our country because we are facing so many difficulties," adding that "We had no facilities to train for very long periods but we managed to qualify for the next stage of the Olympics. I am very happy with this achievement but we were expecting to arrive at this stage. It is a team accomplishment under a good coach."

Australia qualified after obtaining 4 points from its three matchs (1-1 with Tunisia, 5-1 on Serbia and Montenegro and they lost 0-1 to Argentina.

Iraqi and Australian teams did not meet each other in the football competition of the Olympics. They played against each other twice before in 1973 in Australia during the World Cup preliminary qualifications. Both matchs were in Australia; first one was on 11-Mar-73 in which Australia won 3:1 and the second match was on Mar18 but the result was 0:0.

Semi final round of the Football competitions in the Olympic Games will start. Matches schedule will be (Mali vs Italy), (Argentina vs Costa Rica), (Iraq vs Australia) and (Paraguay vs S. Korea).

Macclesfield Town are set to sign Iraqi international

Maccesfield, BBC sport

League Two leaders Macclesfield Town are set to sign Iraqi international Jassim Swadi Fayadh.

The 29-year-old left-sided midfielder was part of the Iraq national squad which toured Britain in the summer.

Fayadh scored one of the goals in Iraq's win over the National Game XI at Macclesfield's Moss Rose ground.

Jassim, whose last club was Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, is currently training with the Silkmen and will complete a deal once the necessary paperwork is completed.

Source: BBCSport

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Iraqis are here

Despite the problems in Iraq, Iraqi delegation to Athens Olympic Games entered the stadium in the opening ceremony smiling and dressed in green and white; green as a symbol of fertility and everlasting, while white as a symbol of peace.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Ishtar in Athens

Alaa the Iraqi female athlete dresses as Ishtar, the Queen of Beauty holding the Mace of Wisdom in her hand and wearing the 3 Star Golden Crown with symbols of Love, Wisdom and Fertility. The Babylonian Queen Ishtar is here to bring to the world gifts of CULTURE and PEACE from our beloved country, IRAQ.

Iraq(Mesopotamia)is the cradle of civilization and the valley of two great rivers, the Tigres and the Euphrates where the Sumarian King Hamourabi established the first recorded law 4000 BC.