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.