Iraqi Football History


Early forms of the game of football in Iraq can be traced as far back as 3,000 years ago through the trade relations between Mesopotamia, which means ‘the land between two rivers’ in Greek, and the ancient Chinese civilisation, where one of the earliest forms of football, known as ‘cuju’ or ‘to kick a ball’ was first understood to have began. Their has been some evidence of modern football having been played in Iraq in the 1800s or even earlier, this comes from a painting found by Iraqi historians in the city of Nafar, west of Afak in the province of Al-Qadissiya in 1977. The historians placed the date of the painting, which consisted of a standing human being and in front of him was a another person with a ball in the motion of kicking the ball, in the era of the 19th century, this painting demonstrated that football was being played before the British Mandate in 1914. The modern organised game of football in Iraq dates back to about a century ago, there are many sources and theories of how football first arrived in Iraq but historians in Iraq believe that the game first arrived in three cities of Basra, Mosul and Baghdad. It is believed that one rout was through the port of Basra, where local teams played matches with foreigners from ships docked at the port city and also through Mosul in the north from students who travelled to the Ottoman nation to study in Istanbul and returned to spread the name of the game forming teams, while also playing and teaching. One Iraqi player named Mudhafar Ahmed or Muzaffer Ahmet as he was known in Turkey, represented several clubs in the city of Istanbul before the Great War, he later returned to Iraq to become one of Iraq’s first referees. The first establishment of the rules of the game was in Baghdad and this is how organised football came to other parts of Iraq through the first quarter of the last century.

When the Ottoman Army were defeated at the end of the Mesopotamian Campaign of WW1, the British were given the mandate to rule the 3 vilyats of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The country was named, Iraq, an old name used for the region as early as 630 AD, when the Islamic Caliphs invaded the Khvārvarān Province of the Persian Empire. The British through the Royal Air Force occupied many parts of Iraq and built RAF Stations to command the vast country, the most notable and largest being RAF Hinaidi built in the south of Baghdad, later renamed Muaskar Al-Rasheed (Al-Rasheed Camp), where football became a big part of the daily lives of British soldiers. The British Army in the Middle East had incorporated many top professionals from the English Football League such as right-back Alf Ramsey, later a player and coach of England, as well as Bolton Wanderers captain Harry Goslin and fourteen others from the Lancashire club, who had signed up after the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The first and oldest club in Iraq Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya or Air Force was even founded by a group of Iraqi flight policemen on the RAF Base of Hinaidi. The club was officially founded on the July 4th 1931, under the unusual name of Gipsy Moth, 74 days after foundation of the Iraqi Air Force on April 22nd, 1931 the day five Iraqi students landed with their planes from London at Al-Washash Airport after four years studying aeronautics at the RAF Cranwell College. Al-Jawiya played its first game on the July 5th, 1931 against a team from the Habbaniya RAF base, who they beat. The names of the first ever Air Force team were Mustafa Hussein, Hassan Abid, Wajdi Ali, Mahoud Fartona, Wafiq Ali, Abdul-Razzaq Abdul-Wahab, Kamil Keri, Raouf Shabeb, Ali Kadhim, and Anwar Mustafa. The win over the British forces helped the club grow in popularity as many Iraqis began supporting the club as its reputation spread all-around Iraq. As the British forces and its leaders saw that the clubs activities had broadened and its members and followers had multiplied which was clearly seen in its matches they played in, the British wanted to get rid of some of its leaders but King Ghazi who took over as ruler of Iraq in 1933, had a strong relationship with the Iraqi flight policemen and he invited the counsel to have talks to solve the problem. It was not long before a solution of the development of the club had been thought of and the Air Force club converted to the control of another branch of the Iraqi air force, which opened a number of doors for the club around areas in Iraq.

Photo taken in January 1942 with the young King Faisal II holding the hand of Crown Prince Abdullah and saluting the players of the Iraqi Air Force and a British Army team before a game in Baghdad.

After the Kingdom of Iraq became independent in 1931, it was seen as unacceptable for a British military presence in Baghdad so a large RAF Station was constructed in Habbaniya (98km west of Baghdad) and opened in 1934. The station, like RAF Hinaidi became a breeding ground for many top players who later went onto play for the Iraqi national team in the 50s and 60s, as they played, trained and competed with British soldiers as well as being taught the beautiful game by British PE teachers at school. The players included Aram Karam, Youel Gorgis, Emmanuel ‘Ammo’ Samsom (known as Ammo Simsim or Uncle Sesame) from Levy Civilian, Hama Peshka, and Abbas Hamadi from The Oriental and Emmanuel ‘Ammo’ Baba, Kaku Gorgis, Sargis Shimson, Edison Eshay and Youra Eshaya from the RAF Employees’ (Assyrian) Club. These players also played for the famous C.C. team of the 1950s. The first C.C. team in the 1940s, which represented the Civil Cantonment, where the employees of the British Royal Air Force lived, were formed of various Assyrian, Kurdish and Arab players of disbanded earlier Habbaniya teams, such as the Eagles, Tigers, Arsenal and Blackpool. This team was broken up in 1947 and four years later, a new C.C team was formed, made up of the best players from local Habbaniya club teams such as Assyrian Employees, Levy Civilian, A.M.W.D. and the Oriental. This select team played against Baghdad teams such as Air Force, Police and Royal Guards in various Iraqi cup competitions.

There were other stations in Mosul in the north and Shaiba in Basra in the south. These stations all had mini leagues that RAF servicemen including many former professionals from the English Football League participated in and played for teams called Blackpool, Tigers, Arsenal, Eagles etc. An unofficial Iraq championship on the army stations were even introduced, while every year ‘semi-internationals’ between north and south Iraq were played, with two games in Baghdad and the another two in Basra. The new game brought to them by their occupiers opened the eyes of Iraqis as they watched matches between British soldiers, with sometimes crowds of over ten thousand attending matches, as well as leading military leaders and even the King of Iraq! Like on the RAF Stations, local or shaabiya teams began to be formed by Iraqis all over the country especially in the capital of Baghdad, as football started to flourish in the early periods of the twentieth century.

It was under British rule that football in Iraq developed through the British-run Ministry of Education headed by the ministry’s director Major Humphrey Ernest Bowman in 1917, as Physical Education entered the school education systems in Iraq. Bowman appointed Corporal Sergeant George Hewson to supervise the development of physical education in Iraqi schools like in Al-Baroudiya, Al-Haidariya and Al-Fadhil. Hewson, also a qualified PE teacher, actively participated in supervision of sports, including the training of the newly formed Dar Al-Mualameen primary school team. The Englishman use to give football lessons students at the Sheikh Omar ground in Baghdad, coach them and train them and later divide them into two teams to play a game, and even supplied football jerseys for the students. Different schools later adopted this system of training over the country. The first recorded football match in Iraqi football history was played on March 7, 1918 at the Sheikh Omar Al-Sharoudi ground between two school teams, Dar Al-Mualameen and a team formed from three school teams of Al-Fadhil, Al-Haidariya and Al-Baroudiya. The first goal was scored by student Abdul-Latif Qadir Al-Najar from the three school combined team. A competition between school teams in Baghdad was organised by the ministry of Education, which started in 1921 and was called the Ministry of Education Cup Championship, which was played during the month of April.

One of the first sports grounds in Iraq was the Sheikh Omar ground, and later Al-Salahiya, Al-Laslaki (‘Wireless’) stadium, and the Basra Petroleum Company stadium while one of the biggest was at the Police School in the Bataween district and later the Al-Kartaniya ground. There were also several grounds at RAF Bases all over the country.

By the early 1920s, football had spread all over Iraq through the school system and in 1923 the first Cup competition in Iraq was introduced called Batola Jamae’a Korat Al-Kadem the ‘Football Association Championship’, organised by the newly formed Baghdad FA which included teams representing schools, universities, and later companies and military teams.

In 1924 the Iraqi national team played its first match against British Army team RAF Armoured Cars. The game was played at the Salahiya Ground in Baghdad with the Iraqis losing 2-1 to the Brits. The Iraqi team and the match was organised by the Baghdad Football Association (Jamae’a Korat Al-Kadem Al-Baghdadiya), which had been formed in 1923 with president Yousef Azzeddin Bek Al-Nasseri and officials Najib Al-Mashraqi, an Egyptian national, Butras Mansour, Sajdan, Goodall, and Nouri Thabit. The association included teams such as Dar Al-Mualameen (‘Teacher’s House’), Wazara Al-Maliya (‘Treasury Ministry’), Madrasa Al-Sinaia (‘School of Industry’), Handasa (‘Engineering’), Muntada Al-Tahtheeb (‘Civility Forum’), Wazara Al-Ashgal (‘Ministry of Work’), Wazara Al-Auqaf (‘Ministry of Religious Endowments’), Thanawiya Al-Markaziya (‘Secondary Central’). The first competition organised by the Baghdad FA was the 1924 Football Association Championship that included 16 teams and was won by Thanawiya Al-Merkaziya on April 4, 1924 in a 3-0 victory over Wazara Al-Ashgal. The Baghdad FA propelled to push the robust nationalist feeling in the country and formed a strong Iraqi national formation on November 1924 against the RAF Armoured Cars team, a match refereed by Baghdad FA Official Goodall, Iraq lost and as a result the English teams entered into the Iraq’s first cup competition. The Association’s President and secretary presented their resignations to the board after the defeat, in truth the officials refused to comply with the demands given out by the English at the Casual’s Club. There were contradicting reports circulating from the local newspapers on the incident, the first being the pair were pushed while the second mentioned that the President and Secretary resigned from their posts after the defeat. After the match between Iraq and the RAF Armoured Cars team, it paved the way for English teams to participate in Iraq’s first competition, the FA Championship. A while later, changes were made at the association, as the organisation of the FA Championship was handed over to the officials of the English run-Casual’s Club, and after the final of the 1925 Cup, all members of the board of the Baghdad Football Association resigned and all the responsibilities of the Baghdad FA were passed onto the Casual’s Club headed by President Stafford, the cup competition was later renamed the Casual’s Cup in 1927 and ran until 1936.

The Football Association Championship or the Casual’s Cup as it was later known as, brought together the first stars of Iraqi football, from Tadamoun Al-Ahly Club there was the poet Akram Ahmed and Yousef Zeinal. The Iraqi Army team Fuaj 7 had the well-known star Fakhri Omar or Fakhri Al-Londani (‘The Londoner’) as he was popularly known as well as players like Labith Lona, Shaqri Shara, Alrif Saadoun and keeper Michael. At the famous Thanawiya Al-Markaziya team, stars included Akram Fahmi, later an international referee and president of the Iraqi FA and his brother Muthar, Qadri Ardomli, Wahbi Saqraj, and Hafidh Al-Daroubi. Abdul-Rahman Lagwan, Ismail Ali, Jamal Habib at Dar Al-Mualameen, Madrasa Al-Harbiya’s Anwar Al-Dababa and Nadhim Mahmoud and Al-Wataniya’s forward Qadri Kafr Othman and Hassan Abu Al-Nahar. Gumruk or the Customs House was coached by Englishman Mr.Stafford a customs inspector, who also played for the team (under Baghdad rules, teams from Baghdad were allowed to include a British player and coach), other prominent players included Naji Abdul-Sattar, Houbi Ahmed, goalkeeper Khalil Mohammed known as Khalil Al-Adhem (‘Khalil the Great’), Raouf Mahmoud or Raouf Al-Aama (‘The Blind’) and Francis Mikza.

In Basra, the biggest names were a player known as Abbas ‘Yalesh’, and Hamed Majeed of the 40s, star striker of the Basra Petroleum Company and captain of the Basra Select XI and later coach of Al-Minaa, the northern city of Mosul, the biggest name was Jassim Mohammed Mahmoud, known as Jassim ‘Zito’ who played for the Mosul Select XI and various Iraqi select teams in the 30s and 40s. Other competitions were organised like the Taha Al-Hashimi Cup, the Aoni Bakr Sidiqqi Cup, Alweya Cup, Baban Cup, Air Force Cup, Army Cup, and Sports Games Cup.

The idea of an Iraqi national selection came up again in 1938 from three individuals Jazmi Suleiman, Hamed Rafit, and Kadri Ardomli, who studied in Austria in Europe and even played football there, though not play for any professional club. However as the Iraqi FA had not been founded, and that Iraq was not yet a member of FIFA, it played as an unofficial national team under the name of Baghdad Olympic Club. On February 19, 1938, the Syrian club Barada, featuring several Syrian national team players, was the first foreign team to visit Iraq. Nadi Barada Al-Riyadhi (Barada Sports Club), named after the main river of Damascus, was one of Syria’s top teams in the early twentieth century. The Iraqi team was a select side that played under the name of Baghdad Olympic Club, included well-known players such as one of Iraq’s best goalkeepers at the time Ismail Hammoudi, and forwards Hadi Abbas and Nassir ‘Chico’ Yousef. The game refereed by Akram Fahmi ended in a 1-1 draw at the Al-Kashafa (‘Scouts’) Stadium, situated in the Baghdad district of Al-Kasra and built in 1929.

Through the 30s, and 40s the Ministry of Education employed many coaches and PE teachers from overseas such as England, Germany, Sweden and Egypt to train students in Iraq like Scotsman James McCrae in 1940, who gave theory lectures on physical education and sports at the hall of the Olympic Club. The Iraqi team was coached for a time in 1943 by Yorkshireman George Raynor and continued to participate in unofficial international matches against British military teams in the Middle East and other teams that travelled to Iraq. Raynor became the first foreigner to be appointed coach of the Iraqi national team employed by Iraq’s Ministry of Education, and earned 30 Iraqi dinars (around $145 US Dollars/£30 English Pounds Sterling at the time). He was coaching for the British Army in Baghdad working as a Physical Education instructor and teaching sports training at the Dar Al-Mualameen School after WW2, this was until the English FA asked him to go and help the Swedes, leading them to the 1948 Olympic gold and the 1958 World Cup Final against Brazil. Under Raynor, the Iraqi team played in a tournament against the military teams of England and Poland. The Polish Army had been stationed in Iraq after being formed in 1942, under the command of Lt. General Władysław Anders, overall some 75,000 Polish soldiers, as well as 5,000 scouts and women, were stationed in Iraq at the time. Polish Artillery was the camp Mullah Azis near Khanaquin on the Alwand River in the desert of Iraq, while other Polish troops were stationed at British bases in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk.

In 1929 came the birth of a Committee for Physical Education Teachers in Baghdad with officials Yassin Al-Amer, Egyptian Safwat Al-Ameri and Abdul-Karim Joda, the committee invited the school teams to form Fareeka Al-Marouf (‘Physical Education Select XI’), the idea of member Safwat Al-Ameri. The Iraqi national team toured Lebanon and Syria to play several friendly internationals in 1944. The team and tour was organised by the Ministry of Education, the body that controlled Iraqi sports in the early parts of the 20th century. Iraq, playing under the name of Montakhab Al-Marouf Al-Tarbiya Al-Iraqi (‘Iraq Physical Education team’) managed to beat their Lebanese counterparts 4-1 in Beirut on March 1, 1944, however they lost 2-1 to the American University of Beirut, one of Lebanon’s top sides at the time four days later.

In 1923 in the Baghdad district of Aldbkhana the first sports training club was established which was called Mahad Al-Tarbiya Al-Badniya (‘Physical Education Institute’) founded by Najih Al-Masraf, Sabri Al-Khatat and Nadhim Al-Tabqjli. After Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya the first club was founded in 1931, the second club in Iraq Nadi Al-Minaa Al-Basri (Basra Port Club) was formed on November 22, 1931 in the district of Muslim bin Aqil in Al-Maqil. Other teams followed such as Royal Olympic Club in Al-Adhammiya (1934), Al-Shurta (1934), Nadi Al-Ittihad Al-Riyadhi or ‘Union Sports Club’(1937) in Basra, Al-Sikak Al-Hadeed (‘Steel Railways’) in 1937, and the famous Haris Al-Maliki (Royal Guards) team in 1947.

In the 50s and 60s, the top teams were Al-Maslaha Naqil Al-Rakab (‘Public Transport Service’), Aliyat Al-Shurta (‘Mobile Police’), Al-Kahraba (‘Electrics’) and Army teams Al-Farqa Al-Thalatha (‘3rd Armoured Division’) in Habbaniya, Al-Farqa Al-Khamisa (‘5th Armoured Division’) in Baghdad, and Al-Farqa Al-Thaniya (‘2nd Armoured Division’) in Kirkuk.

The Iraqi league was introduced in 1962, and was won by Montakhab Al-Shurta (‘Police Select XI’) – the league ran until 1973 when a national league of Institutes was organised. On October 4, 1974, Al-Tayaran took on Al-Sinaa in the opening game of the Iraqi League, the league included 10 teams, several of who had merged together for the new season. Al-Sikak Al-Hadeed were renamed Al-Naqil (‘Transport’), Nadi Al-Shurta Al-Riyadhi (‘Police Sports Club’) was formed by the merger of Aliyat Al-Shurta, Shurta Al-Najda (‘Police Debuties’) and Kuliya Al-Shurta (‘Police College’). Al-Kahraba were merged with other Electronic teams to form Al-Sinaa (‘Industry Sports Club’), Al-Muwasalat (‘Transportation’) were formed by the merger of Al-Bareed (‘Post Office’) and Al-Minaa Al-Basri (‘Basra Port Club’). Al-Baladiyat (‘Municipalities’) were formed by the merger of Al-Maslaha and Esla Al-Mai (‘Water Liquefaction’), and Nadi Al-Jaish Al-Riyadhi (‘Army Sports Club’) was formed by the merger other Army teams. Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, who had been renamed Al-Tayaran (‘Airlines’) won the title, one point ahead of Al-Naqil, who later went bankrupt, leading their players and coaching staff to join newly promoted Al-Zawraa Sports Club who went onto dominate Iraqi football in the 70s, with strike duo Ali Kadhim and Falah Hassan signed from Al-Tayaran.

The creation of clubs also spread to the provinces Muhafadhat or Liwa (as Iraq’s provinces were known as until 1970), King Faisal Club, now known as Al-Thawra was formed in Al-Tamim province (formerly Kirkuk) in 1955, in the province of Al-Wasat (formerly Al-Kut), Nadi Al-Muthanna Al-Riyadhi (later renamed Al-Kut) was formed in 1956, while in Maysan province (formerly Al-Amara province until 1976) Al-Amara Sports club formed the same year. A year later in Ninevah the Mosul Sports Club was created.

Diyala Sports Club became the first team from the province of Diyala in 1957, and Karbala Sports Club was the first in the namesake province in 1958. The first team from the province of Arbil was Brusk Sports Club in 1958.

The first team from the province of Dhi Qar (formerly Muntafiq and then Al-Nassriya) was Al-Nassriya Sports Club founded in 1960, in the province of Al-Anbar (formerly Dulaim and then Ramadi) Nadi Ramadi Al-Riyadhi was formed in 1962, while Samawa Sports Club became the first team from the province of Al-Muthanna in 1963. A year later, Kufa Sports Club became the first club in the province of Al-Najaf, and Al-Hilla Sports Club was the first from Babil province and Al-Diwaniya and Al-Rafidain were the first from the Al-Qadissiya province (formerly Al-Diwaniya). In the rest of the provinces Samarra Sports Club was the first in Salah-Al-Deen in 1973, while Duhok Sports was the first club from the namesake province in 1970, while in the Sulimaniya province the first team was Sulimaniya Sports Club.

The Iraqi Football Association (Ittihad Al-Iraqi Le-Korat Al-Kadem) was formed on October 8, 1948, and was the third sports union to be founded in Iraq after the Track and Field Athletics and the Basketball Federations. The two unions took part at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, July 29 – August 14 – however the Iraqi FA had still not been founded, so no football team took part in the Olympics. During the 1948 London Olympic Games, Iraq lost every game by an average of 104 points per game. They scored an average of 23.5 points per game. The team included Iraq’s first ever-national football captain Wadud Khalil Jumaa and another member of Iraq’s first ever-national squad in 1951, the outside right Salih Faraj. The first Iraqi FA was headed by President Obaid Abdullah and Saadi Jassim as general secretary, with its headquarters in the Sheikh Omar district in Baghdad. The IFA was an association of 14 teams from all over Iraq, the Royal Olympic Club (‘Nadi Al-Malikiya Al-Olympiya’), Royal Guards (‘Haris Al-Maliki’), Royal Air Force (‘Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya Al-Malikiya’), Police College (‘Kuliya Al-Shurta’), Kuliya Al-Askariya (‘Military College’), Dar Al-Mualameen Alaliya (‘Highest Teacher’s House’), Casual’s Club, Al-Marouf Al-Tarbiya (‘Physical Education’), Kuliya Al-Hakok (‘College of Law’), Quwa Al-Siyara (‘Armoured Cars’) from the capital Baghdad and four other teams Nadi Al-Minaa Al-Basri (Basra Port Club), Sharakat Al-Naft Al-Basra (Basra Petroleum Company) from Basra and branches in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk

The first ever Iraqi League organised by the Iraq FA in 1949 included six teams in two groups, one group was won by Kuliya Al-Askariya and the other by Sharakat Naft Al-Basra. The final played at the Kashafa stadium was won by the Basra Petroleum Company with a single goal. The Basra team coached by Tommy Thomas included two Englishmen, two Armenians as well as Hamed Majeed and two players from Iraq’s first ever-national team Saeed Easho and Shaker Ismail.

On May 6, 1951, Iraq played its first international against a Turkey B team in Izmir. The Iraqi delegation headed by the IFA president Saadi Jassim included top players from the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and Habbaniya and Basra. The team was captained by Wadud Khalil Jumaa and coached by Dhia Habib included centre forward Nassir Yousef, known as Nassir ‘Chico’, the young defender Jamil Abbas ‘Jamoli’, midfielder Hama Peshka and a quartet from Basra. They lost 7-0 to a Turkey B team and also lost 7-5 in the second game against an Ankara XI, where Iraq’s goals came from Aram Karam (4) and one from Salih Faraj.

The national team’s first official FIFA ‘A’ International match came at the 1957 Pan-Arab Games in Beirut against Morocco, coached by former France and Stade Français, Atlético Madrid and Marseille forward of the 40s and 50s, Larbi Ben Barek. The Iraqi team was coached by Ismail Mohammed and included captain Jamil Abbas ‘Jamoli’, keeper Mohammed Thamir, midfielder Edison Eshay, Youra Eshaya and Emmanuel ‘Ammo’ Baba. Iraq’s first ever goal came from the legendary Ammo Baba, who later coached the national team on six different occasions from 1978 to 1996. In the second game against Tunisia, Ammo became the first Iraqi player to be sent-off in an international match!

One of the members of Iraq’s first national team was Youra Eshaya, who in 1954 became the first Iraqi footballer to play abroad and in Europe for English Football League side Bristol Rovers FC. He spent 18 months playing for the 3rd team, known as the Colts and the reserve team before returning to Iraq in late 1955. Several Iraqi players would go onto play in Europe, however the first to play in the top division in Europe was Ghassan Raouf, known as Ghassan Heamed in Europe. He travelled to Romania with his brother Iraqi international Bassam, where they joined first division side Sportul Studentesc. Left-sided defender Ghassan went onto play ten times for the club in season 1994-1995, while his brother did not make one single appearance. His stay in Romania was cut short after the club were unable to pay the remainder of his contract, and Ghassan and his brother left for Sweden to play for 3rd division side Assyriska FF, a team formed in 1971 by Assyrian immigrants mainly from Iraq. In his 10 years at the club, the longest serving Iraqi player in Europe helped the team to promotion to Sweden’s top division, the Allsvenskan and reach the Swedish Cup final in 2004, both for the first time. Iraqi internationals Ali Wahaib in 1998 for CS Otelul Galati and Jassim Swadi and Mahdi Karim in 2005 for Apollon Limassol would go onto play in the European top flight in the leagues of Romania and Cyprus respectively.

The national team, and the military team (which in the 30s until the early 90s were virtually the same team), won several competitions in the Arab World as well as in Asia, the first came at the Arab Cup in Kuwait in 1964, Iraq would go onto lift the Arab Cup on three other occasions in 1966, 1985 and 1988. They also won the Gulf Cup in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and the Asian Games in 1982, as well as the CISM World Military Championship in 1972, 1977 and 1979. Iraq also hosted the competition in 1968 and 1972.

The Iraqi national team’s greatest accomplishment came when they qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico having played all their matches outside of Iraq due to Iran-Iraq War – the team was run by Saddam’s eldest son Uday Saddam Hussein, who had taken over as president of the Iraqi FA in 1984 and had sacked five coaches from the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign by the time the team arrived at the Estadio Bombonera in Toluca on June 4, 1986 to play Paraguay. The Iraqi team wearing an all golden strip (another one of Uday’s great ideas) with the Iraqi emblem on the chest lined-up that day with captain Raad Hammoudi in goal, Khalil Allawi, Samir Shaker, Nadhim Shaker, Ghanim Oraibi in defence, Haris Mohammed, Natiq Hashim, Basil Gorgis and Ali Hussein Shihab in midfield, and Ahmed Radhi, and Hussein Saeed up-front. The coach was Brazilian Evaristo de Macedo. Iraq lost 1-0 – having had a legitimate goal ruled–out by referee Edwin Pikon-Ackong from Mauritius after he blew his whistle a split-second before Ahmed Radhi’s header crossed the line in first half stoppage time. In the following game against Belgium, Ahmed Radhi scored Iraq’s only World Cup Final’s goal to date after he received a pass from Natiq Hashim, and volleyed past goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff of German club Bayern München.

Photo taken on June 4, 1986 of the Iraqi team lining up against Paraguay. From right, Raad Hammoudi, Hussein Saeed, Nadhim Shaker, Natiq Hashim, Ahmed Radhi, Basil Gorgis, Samir Shaker, Haris Mohammed, Khalil Allawi, Ali Hussein Shihab and Ghanim Oraibi.


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