Assyrian legends of Iraqi football: Youra Eshaya


YOURA ESHAYA (b.1933-d.1992)

Youra Eshaya was one of the greatest Iraqi players of all times, who in 1949 and being only 16 years of age joined the Assyrian Employees’ Club in Habbaniya, and one year later was selected to represent the Civil Cantonment (C.C.) Team of Habbaniya.

In 1954, he left for England and played there in the semi-professional league for a period of 16 months, for Football League club, Bristol Rovers, then playing in the Second Division. Youra, as a foreigner was unable to play as a full-time professional, and spent his time in England, playing for the club’s third team, Bristol Rovers Colts.

In late 1955 he was brought back to Iraq by a request from Brigadier Kadhim Abbadi, then the Iraqi Air Force Commander (A.O.C.), and joined the Iraqi Air Force team.

His naturalisation went through speedily and in no time at all he was selected to play for the Iraqi national team. Youra played for the Iraqi Air Force team until 1971 when he retired from playing. Youra was unquestionably one of the greatest forwards of all time.

Due to his technical brilliance, he added a quality rare among Iraqi soccer artists, i.e. incredible stamina. The field was his preserve, as he was capable of having a shot at the goal one minute, and pulling back the next, to slide tackling an opponent near his own penalty area.

It is to him, more than any other player the Iraqi Air Force owe their astonishing successes and championships. He has been their team leader and star player.

He was also a maestro in the Iraqi national team and the combined Assyrian teams as well. He maintained his remarkable stamina through his cross-country running.

Youra played quite a number of championship games for the Iraqi National teams, which were played in the Middle East, Europe, and in Africa. During his career, he was a real soccer-minded master.

He was the one directs the plan and bestrides the field, and it would not be exaggerating if we say that no greater centre forward was ever known in Iraq, such as Youra. He went onto become a football coach in Sweden, where he had settled with his Swedish wife.

Number of games played against foreign teams: 75



Assyrian legends of Iraqi football: Ammo Baba


AMMO BABA (b.1934-d.2009)

Ammo Baba was one of the most fabulous and flamboyant soccer players history has ever created. He started shinning in 1951 when he was selected to play for the Iraqi school team where his debut was so great and successful when he played against Egyptian team in Cairo.

He was to develop and finish his skills when he joined the Assyrian Employees’ Club in Habbaniya and played along with some famous Assyrian players such as Ammo Samson, Youra Eshaya, Zia Shawel, and Hormis Goriel.

In 1954 he joined the Royal Guards soccer team for which he played until 1956. He had a short spell at the Third Division side in Habbaniya in 1957, before moving to the Air Force team, where he played until 1958.

In 1958, he left the Air Force side and was appointed player-coach of the Assyrian Sports Club, who he led to the 1960 Iraq FA Cup Championship. He returned to the Air Force after lifting the Iraqi championship, and played there until 1964.

Due to his magnificent playing abilities and subtle techniques he maintained his position brilliantly that he was always called to play regularly for the Iraqi national team. In 1965 he almost retired due to a serious injury that was caused at the Pan Arab Games in Cairo against Aden.

Ammo Baba had dark hair, powerful body, and acrobatic skills, and was a great goalscorer. His astonishing kicking power, bicycle kick abilities, and marvellous speed made him so unique and outstanding.

His greatest disappointment was his injury while in the peak of his career; yet the ace should be commemorated as one of the greatest footballers not only in Iraq but throughout all the Middle East countries as well.

He scored approximately 850 goals in his playing career against foreign and local teams.

In 1967 Ammo Baba became the coach of the Public Transport Services team. In 1971 he was appointed as the head coach of the Military College team for which he played. His production as assistant coach and coach is worth mentioning. In 1978 he was designated as head coach of the Iraqi national team.

During the period of his coaching career, his team achieved the following victorious accomplishments: 1. CISM World Military Championship (1979); 2. Gulf Cup (1979, 1984 and 1988); 3. Merdeka Championship (1981); and 4. Asian Games (1982). It is worth mentioning that he was the only coach who could get the Iraqi national team to the finals of the Olympic Games on two occasions in 1984 held in Los Angeles and in 1988 in Seoul.

Number of games played against foreign teams: 85


Assyrian legends of Iraqi football: Aram Karam

The Assyrian BOMBER

ARAM KARAM (b.1926- )
Residence: Turlock, California, USA

Aram Karam was one of the best goalscorers the Assyrian nation ever had. He started his athletic career as a player in 1936 for local teams in the district of Hinaidi, today known as Al-Rashid Military Camp. Then he moved to Habbaniya and played for school and popular teams until 1943.

Later on he joined the varsity (C.C) team which was one of the strongest teams in Habbaniya and which included quite a number of Assyrian soccer stars such as Shmouel Eshaya (Sammy) the father of the international soccer player Gilbert Sammy.

Aram Karam was distinguished as a great player especially in scoring fantastic and accurate goals. In 1951 he was selected to play as an international player for the Iraqi national team.

At the same year a selected team was formed at Habbaniya in which Aram was a star. This selected team has achieved a good number of championships against teams from Baghdad including Police Team, Air Force Team, and Royal Guards Team.

In 1952 Aram moved to Kirkuk (Province of Al-Tamim) and there played for a newly formed team called I.P.C. team which in 1954 achieved the championship of the North of Iraq.

Aram Karam has scored a great number of wonderful goals due to his powerful and accurate shooting.

In 1960 he retired and was appointed in charge of sports in the pipe line areas of the Iraqi Petroleum Company and he worked as a coach for juniors.

It can be said that the world have not recorded a kicking power as that of Aram Karam for he scored fantastic goals from a distance of about 50 yards whether with his right or left foot.

Aram was a quick and dominating player, very professional in penalty kicks, for in a wink of an eye he would slam the ball into the goal as a bullet.

All his fans in Iraq or elsewhere still remember the three wonderful goals that he scored against the Iranian Taj club which was playing against the Assyrian Sports Club in 1956 at the Scouts Ground in Baghdad.

During his athletic career Aram scored nearly 600 goals.

Will there ever be another sharp-shooting striker like Aram Karam of Iraq?

Number of games he played against foreign teams: 35


What does لاعب دولي (international player) mean?

It is a term used loosely in the Iraqi sports media, but what does it actually mean?

It should mean a player that has represented the Iraqi national side, but I have seen many former players interviewed in sports papers and on television in Iraq, that have only played for an Iraqi junior, youth, or military side and still claim to be لاعب دولي but have never actually played an international for Iraq.

The reason I ask this question, is because a former player Ismail Khalil Al-Obaidi, known during his playing days as Ismail Al-Dags, is trying to get elected in the forthcoming provincal elections on the back of his sporting background as a former player of the Iraqi team. His campaign poster features him juggling a ball in an Inter Milan jersey, with the words ‘former international football player’.

But here is the thing, Ismail ‘Al-Dags’ never played for the Iraqi national side. He may have been a top player in his own province of Babil in his heyday and played for top teams at the time, but there is no evidence that he ever played a game for the Iraqi national team.

I don’t know Mr. Ismail Khalil and I am sure he is a good honest and hard-working person that will do his best for the province of Babil if elected, but to begin a political campaign on a lie, is not a good start.