Download the complete 72-man Iraqi World Cup qualifying squad sent to the AFC by the Iraqi FA on May 11, 2015.
There’s nothing like the drama of a Clásico but in Iraq, it reads like a script from Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather with Al-Zawraa’s head coach Emad Mohammed playing the leading role.
After the end of the Baghdad derby played in front of over 40,000 spectators at the Al-Shaab, there was an incident involving Al-Zawraa’s coach Emad Mohammed and a club supporter.
At 12:10am, coach Emad Mohammed phoned Amir Al-Maliki, a well-known Al-Zawraa supporter, after he had been interviewed by an Iraqi TV channel and asked him why he had told the Al-Baghdadiya TV station that the former Al-Zawraa player turned-head coach of the White Seagulls had been the reason for the defeat to arch rivals Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.
Al-Maliki revealed to Al-Baghdadiya’s Studio Al-Malaab in a phone interview that the coach had then cursed his parents, who had both been martyred.
At 4pm on April 11, a day after the game, the coach phoned him once more and asked him if he was ready to apologise for his remarks but the fan refused and then the trainer went onto tell him that he was “a Baathi” and a member of the party and told the supporter to come to the Al-Zawraa club along with the others that had made similar comments blaming the coach for the defeat. But he bluntly refused to go and told him he wouldn’t support the club any longer. The Al-Zawraa coach allegedly told him, according to Mr Al-Maliki, that he would take him from his home and his wife!
The next day the Iraqi Supporters Club wanted to solve the issue between the two, but initially Al-Maliki refused to go to the club, and met near the Al-Zawraa Club at 8pm and then after meeting they said they should talk inside the coach’s home rather than outside, where Emad Mohammed and his brother Omran were, and in the attendance were other members of the Al-Zawraa Supporters Club and the Ultras, they attempted to reconcile their differences as sportsmen and said they should say Surat Al-Fatiha and start again, after an exchange of words between the two sides, the Al-Zawraa coach took out a gun and vented his anger at Amir Al-Maliki and again called him a Baathi and expelled him from the house by gunpoint!!!
Emad Mohammed went on the same Al-Baghdadiya TV sports show and explained that around 25 people had come to his house and that he hadn’t invited them and that they had had come to “attack” him he said and said that he had never phoned the supporter or made any such remarks to him. He demanded the Iraqi Prime Minister and the Iraqi armed forces to protect him from the football fans.
The trainer had been upset that Al-Maliki had gone to Al-Baghdadiya TV as he said that they were known for stirring trouble. After the El Clásico defeat to Al-Jawiya last Friday, the coach had also attacked Al-Iraqiya Sport TV presenter Husham Mohammed after what he claimed were unacceptable statements made by him and demanded from the Al-Zawraa president Falah Hassan for the club to boycott the channel and only until the intervention of Director General of the channel Hamza Hussein was the crisis ended, with a pledge that it wouldn’t be repeated in the future.
Emad Mohammed had handed-in his resignation as head coach of Al-Zawraa after the El Clásico defeat and wrote a statement on his Facebook account to explain why he had made his decision to step down. “the reason for my resignation is due to the failure of the club’s administration to take any action against some of the clubs supporters who attacked me after the match ended.”
He went onto say “some of the supporters accused me (according to a comment from an Iraqi journalists) of carrying arms and aiming it at their faces and threatening them and they did not stop attacking me through the means of social communication.”
The club administration intervened over the coach’s resignation and after mediation he overturned his decision, resuming his position as head coach 48 hours after the El Clásico crisis defeat to Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, a game in which the coach was angered by the referee after a goal was ruled out for the White Seagulls.
Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud finally made his return to club football in his long awaited bow for Arbil but was unable to help his side avoid a third consecutive defeat in AFC Cup tie despite scoring a double on his debut against FC Ahal of Turkmenistan at the Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium in Doha.
The striker, who last played a club game for Saudi side Al-Ahly Jeddah on November 28, 2013 – (that’s 1 year, 4 months and 18 days, if anyone is counting), opened the scoring after 40 minutes when Loay Salah got down the left wing and delivered the ball onto the head of Arbil’s No.10.
Younis, who has played just 60 minutes of football after the Asian Cup, instinctively guided the ball to the right of the Ahal goalkeeper Nikita Gorbunov for his first goal for the club. His last competitive club goal came 1 years, 6 months and 5 days ago (or approx. 13,248 hours).
Then 66 seconds into the second half, Zafar Babajanov equalised from a corner after a combination of poor defending and some clumsy goalkeeping allowed FC Ahal’s captain to tap the ball into the empty net, but the man for the big moment Younis restored the lead for the Yellow Citadel after he was fouled in the box by Suleyman Orazov. Jordanian referee Adham Makhadeh showed no hesitation and instantly pointed to the spot after the late challenge from the FC Ahal midfielder.
Younis stepped up and coolly dispatched his trademark Panenka, chipping the ball to the left of the goalkeeper, who had gone the other way, to give Arbil a 2-1 lead after 64 minutes.
Then in a space of only one minute and 53 seconds FC Ahal’s substitute forward Mamedaly Karadanov, who had come on after 68 minutes for Damar Batyrov, turned the game around for the Turkmen club after taking advantage of some generous defending and hapless goalkeeping from Arbil to completely turn the game, with goals on 72 and 74 minutes.
The defeat leaves Ayoub Odisho’s men rooted to the bottom of Group C with 3 points after four matches, 4 points behind leaders FC Istiklol and Al-Qaddisiya, with only two games remaining. Last year’s AFC Cup finalists, who have faced financial problems since the start of the season after austerity measures in the region, have an uphill struggle to qualify for the knock-out stages
In the ancient times (pre-2003), an Iraqi player would be selected to play to represent the national team on the judgement of the national coach, then we had the days after the 2003 War, where many of Iraq’s best players migrated to escape the chaos of post-war nightmare and a host of top clubs were seemingly unrecognisable to the everyday Iraqi football fan. Some of the grand old names of Iraqi football, of the likes of Al-Shurta, Al-Talaba, Al-Jawiya and Al-Zawraa, had youth or junior in their senior ranks after the exodus of their key players looking to the riches or safety of foreign and more greener football pastures. And all the while, the national team coach was expected to name his team, in the midst of the daily car bombings and whatever troubles in the country after the US invasion. There wasn’t a fully-functioning Iraqi league, nor were matches televised, so the simple solution was to have FA officials to dictate the names on the squad.
Favouritism or allegiances and sometimes nepotism has seen players being recalled to the Iraqi national teams, both senior or youth side. Even Jassim Mohammed Ghulam, the tough-looking 2007 Asian Cup winning defender, spoke to an FA official and not the Iraqi coach prior to the Asian tournament eight years ago to get his name on the roster. This is Iraq.
Today, a player is selected and dropped daily, even before a national team roster is named. Yesterday, Mohammed Hamed’s blunder in the West Bank in the AFC Cup in the colours of Al-Shurta has cost him his place in the national team, even though he wasn’t playing for the national team at the time, nor was a recent national squad announced by the Iraq FA.
In the old days, looking back as Iraqis always love to do, the national coach made the final decision on the selection of a goalkeeper, but today the goalkeeping coach, picks, selects, trains and even omits players as he pleases, we’ve had Abdul-Karim Naim, a part-time media spokesman, assistant coach but in real terms a goalkeeping coach, publicly speaking on which goalkeepers he was thinking of calling up. Isn’t this the role of the national team coach?
The art of goalkeeping, may be seen as a different footballing skill to the talent of outfield footballers but there shouldn’t a goalkeeping coach managing or selecting goalkeepers and the national coach calling up outfield players. Nor should there be interference from FA officials, as they has been for so many years and continues to be, with Nour Sabri now expected to be recalled after he decided himself to retire from international football a couple of years ago.
In the case of the Iraqi national team, too many cooks really do ruin the broth. Al-Shurta’s Mohammed Hamed may not in the best of form of late, but to be dropped immediately and so publicly from the national team, after a mistake playing for his club side, and two months before a national squad list is even set to be named! A complete humiliation for the custodian and a lack of professionalism demonstrated by a thoughtless, if not clueless Football Association.
Is this a rational decision? Or was it made to satisfy the masses? The Iraq FA are very unscrupulous in their ways, keeping popular footballers in the side and omitting others on the urging of spectator or mob pressure. And this is how, the mud never sticks to some officials in the Iraqi Football Association, some of whom have worked in football administration from 2003.
This is not the way to drop or select a player. Would Joe Hart or Gianluigi Buffon be treated the same, dropping a clanger for their clubs and the next day read the papers to see themselves dropped from their national sides – two months before even a squad list would be released!