On March 15, 2009 the world’s media circulated the story of an Iraqi footballer that was shot on a football field. The headlines at the Huffington Post read “Iraqi Soccer Player Killed By Fan During Game-Tying Shot”, the BBC website wrote “Iraqi footballer shot dead by fan,” Sky News “Footballer Shot Dead By Rival Supporter,” USA Today “Iraqi soccer player shot, killed as game ends” and the New York Post “Iraqi soccer game ends in sudden death.”
This encircled the world. You may have heard about it. The story goes, that an Iraqi player was shot dead by a spectator as he was about to score an equalising goal for his team, how dramatic, much like a plot of a nauseating, often unremarkable and unimaginative Hollywood movie, and that was what it was, a work of pure fiction. There was no assassin football fan shooting to kill to aid his team to victory nor was the player killed a striker.
It was a sad and tragic incident but it was an isolated one and the world press did not actually document the complete truth, the footballer was not killed as he was about to score an equaliser. But as the saying goes, ‘a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.’
The victim was 20 year-old goalkeeper Haidar Hakim Shrad Al-Taei of shaabiya team Al-Sinjar. The match was a local cup final for the Bahayrat Al-Samak (Fish Lake) Cup between his team Suqour Al-Sinjar and Bahayrat played on Saturday March 14 of 2009. The match was overseen by Hamid Khalaf Mahdi the director of the Euphrates Fish Company and beside him was his 20 year-old brother Qaisar carrying a Russian-made Kalashnikov rifle. Al-Sinjar were 1-0 ahead until the last minute when their opponents scored an equaliser, which led to a pitch invasion from their fans as they celebrated the goal.
Qaisar Khalaf Mahdi attempted to disperse the fans by shooting over their heads with a burst of bullets but one hit the head of the young keeper and he was killed. What makes the story all the more tragic was that the victim’s father had passed away only 28 days earlier.
But why should the truth get in the way of a good story.