Silence truth

This is what you get when you try to tell people the truth.

You get called a terrorist and a traitor (also question whether I’m an Iraqi)

Not one person has actually counter my claims or come out with any reason why from 1975, the Iraqi youth team has been using overage players from Kadhim Waal in 1975 to Mohanad Abdul-Rahim (or is it Abdul-Rahman) in 2013?


Celebratory fire turns Iraq football win into nightmare

By W.G. Dunlop (AFP)

Moqtada, 13, lies on his front at home in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on July 9, 2013 (AFP, Ali al-Saadi)

BAGHDAD — Thirteen-year-old Moqtada went outside his house to set off fireworks after a victory by Iraq’s football team, but ended up a victim of celebratory gunfire, with a bullet lodged in his back.

When Iraq beat South Korea in the U-20 World Cup quarter-finals this month, Baghdad erupted with the sound of gunshots, fired individually or in automatic bursts.

But while some were gleefully firing in the air, others were paying the price. Security and medical officials said at least four people were killed and around 21 wounded by gunfire after the match.

Celebratory shooting adds yet another danger to a country which has been hit by the worst violence since 2008. More than 2,600 people have been killed in attacks so far this year.

At a house in central Baghdad, Moqtada, a slightly-built boy with black hair, rested on his stomach on a narrow bed, a large bandage covering his wounded lower back.

“I went out … to play with fireworks” and “was hit in my back,” Moqtada said in a quiet voice.

He intially thought he had been struck by a firework, but it soon became clear it was something more serious.

“I was sitting at home watching the match, which Iraq won. We were happy,” said Moqtada’s uncle Rahim. “Then they called saying your nephew was hit by a shot.”

Rahim said Moqtada was taken to a public hospital in Baghdad, but they refused to operate, saying it was too risky.

So the wounded boy had to be moved to a second public hospital.

It seemed the operation would be performed there, but doctors eventually decided it should be done at a third, privately-owned hospital, where the bullet was finally removed.

The boy’s father Ali later told AFP Moqtada was recovering well from the gunshot and walking again.

But the operation, unlike treatment at public facilities, came at a steep cost — 2.5 million Iraqi dinars (about $2,080) — a huge expense that the family could ill-afford. They pooled money to pay the bill.

It was “all because of the match,” Rahim said. “Clap, dance, celebrate, but not with shooting.”

As for an upcoming match, he added: “I hope that Iraq will lose, it is better, I swear to God.”

No victory would mean no celebratory shooting.

Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told AFP that people who fire weapons in the air can face arrest and the confiscation of their firearms.

“If you want to celebrate, you can celebrate in a modern way,” Maan said. “Anything else except using guns.”

But celebratory shooting, which also occurs at some weddings and funerals, is still common in Iraq, and security forces are sometimes part of the problem.

The night Moqtada was shot, one witness saw federal policemen in the Zayouna area of Baghdad firing a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a machinegun into the air, though an officer came and called them to account.

People usually fire into the air at an angle, meaning that “the bullet will come back to earth on a parabolic curve with some residual velocity,” said Ronald Scott, a US-based forensic consultant on firearms, ballistics, and shooting reconstructions.

This poses serious danger: “Gunshots fired in the air have a very high degree of causing serious bodily injury or death because it is rare that they are actually coming back to earth in a free-fall vertically,” when they pose much less danger, Scott said.

Some Iraqis have had more than enough of the practice.

“We don’t want it to continue,” Ahmed Midhat Ibrahim said at a Baghdad cafe. “It is unbelievable for those who are going to celebrate to be shot and maybe killed.”

And one fan urged in a text message displayed at the bottom of the screen during another match: “If you love Iraq, do not fire in the air after the game.”

Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved.

World Military Cup loses its appeal

From the mid-Fifties until the late Seventies, the CISM World Military Championship was eagerly anticipated, with spectators flocking to the Iraqi stadia for the matches – seen at the time as the most important fixture in the Iraqi football calendar – with the Iraq Army side brimmed with the national select players. However times change, and now the competition reformed and renamed the CISM World Football Trophy, has lost its shine and glamour.

All of the great footballers in Iraq’s history, Ammo Baba, Hassan Balah, Falah Hassan and Adnan Dirjal, have represented the Iraq Army in the tournament, however the days when the Iraq Army ruled Iraqi football are long gone. Iraq has hosted the CISM football tournament in 1968 and 1972, and won the cup on three occasions in 1972, 1977 and 1979.

Al-Iraqiya Al-Riyadhi TV, known for its sparse budget had no interest in paying the organisers a small fee for live broadcasting rights for Iraq’s matches. While the army and football authorities decided to send Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Air Force) plus two players from Nadi Baghdad and Al-Minaa to Azerbaijan for the finals.

From Left: Jamil Abbas, Ammo Baba and Adil Abdullah line-up before Iraq’s first CISM World Championship game against Egypt in 1955.

The major shift in the football powers came after the 1968 Revolution, when the Ministry of Youth through the Iraqi Olympic Committee became the sole lawmaker in Iraqi sports.

Prior to the revolution, the Ministry of Education and the powerful lobby of the Army Games Committee ran Iraqi sports; holding key positions in the top sports federations in the country. Because of the army’s influence on the Iraqi football scene, army trainers such as Adil Basher, Jalil Shihab and Abdelilah Mohammed Hassan were favoured over others to manage the Iraqi national team because of their military background.

Throughout the Seventies its powers were wrestled off them, at the heights of its powers in the late 60s, the Army Games Committee were able to postpone matches in the Iraqi league, however by the end of the 1970s, its officials had to negotiate the release of its players for CISM matches.

Today, Iraq Army plays Oman in the final of the CISM World Football Trophy, but the competition is no longer seen by many as a credible cup competition nor does the whole country stop to watch the Army team play.

One Goal, One People

On the evening of July 29, 2007, the whole Iraqi nation from the highest mountains of Zakho in the north to the deepest south of Safwan held their breath as they watched Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud rise up to head a ball sent from the heavens past the despairing Saudi keeper and score the winner.

Generators in Baghdad and other cities in the country worked overtime as people forgetting their daily problems for 90 minutes, screamed, cheered, waved flags and danced in front of their TV screens in celebration of their team’s achievement in becoming champions of Asia. Traditional celebratory gunfire echoed in the background as the euphoria of the historic victory filtered through to the people of the war-ravaged country, the celebrations reached as far as the streets of Michigan, London and Stockholm. When asked about his winning goal, Younis replied “I did not score the goal, it was scored by the entire people of Iraq” to emphasise the symbolism of unity between the people of Iraq, one goal, one people.

Asood Al-Rafidain or the Lions of Mesopotamia as the Iraqi fans calls its national team live, breath and play together as one family. Many of the players have known each other since their early teens, united in the highs and lows of life as an Iraqi footballer during long-haul flights in cramped economy class seats or standing waiting six or seven hours for a visa to enter a country just to play a game of football. The core of the team have been together since 2000 the year the Iraqi youth team won the Asian Youth Championship in Tehran, it was there that the likes of Nour Sabri, Basim Abbas and Nashat Akram first started to believe in their own abilities and gain the confidence in themselves that they could beat any team on the Asian continent. These players were the same generation that had been born during the Iraq-Iran war and lived through bombardments of the Gulf War and the crippling UN sanctions, not to mention the dictatorial Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and the sadistic exploits of his eldest son Uday, the former president of the Iraq Football Association.

As bombs fell on Baghdad in March 2003 which eventually brought the end of Saddam, the players were taking part in a training session at the Al-Shaab (People’s) National Stadium preparing for the qualifying rounds of the Olympic Games under coach Adnan Hamad, the man that had led the players to glory in Tehran three years earlier. In the second week of training, the coalition forces invaded Iraq from the Kuwaiti border in the south and bombarded the capital with laser-guided missiles and fighter planes. One of the bombs dropped near the stadium where the team was conducting a training session, several of the players dropped to the ground or took cover. The coach knew that the time for football was over and ordered them to go home and be with their families. It would be two months before the players would be reunited on a football pitch again. On May 12, 2003, with the country in chaos, the coach called up his players on the new Iraqi radio station Voice of New Iraq set-up by the Coalition forces. The coach asked his players to report for training at the Al-Karkh Stadium in Baghdad, instead of Iraq’s national stadium, which at the time was being used by the US forces as a car-park for their tanks and vehicles. Exactly a year to the day the coach had summoned his players on radio, the team created from the ashes of war beat Saudi Arabia to qualify for their fourth Olympics. The never say die attitude of the players gave them the confidence to do the impossible, as they managed a fourth place finish in Athens.

After an early exit the 17th Gulf Cup in 2004 the coach quit citing the security problems in Iraq, his announcement came on the day his home on the volatile Baghdad street of Haifa was destroyed. His successor Akram Salman who received several death threats during his time in charge and fled with his family to the relative safety of the Kurdish region in the north was ousted after the team failed to reach the knock out stages at the 18th Gulf Cup. Three players alleged the coach had agreed with their opponents Saudi Arabia to play for a draw so both teams would advance, telling his players not to attack. In the end an investigation into the match found that there had been ‘miscommunication’ between the coach and players, the coach was sacked while the players were suspended.

Jorvan Vieira had inherited a disjointed team still reeling from the way they had exited the Gulf Cup and despite looking at over forty players during a short three week training camp in Amman kept faith with the same group of players, selecting only five Olympic players and recalling Jassim Mohammed Ghulam after a six-year absence from the national team. Jassim had been part of the 2000 Asian Youth Championship team, and helped to shore up a shaky defence that went onto concede only two goals all the way to the final in Jakarta.

Al-Montakhab Al-Iraqi has always been united, the team in the past has included Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Kurds playing alongside each other. Every Iraqi is proud to wear and fight for the jersey, like the players of the Seleção Brasileira and Italy’s Azzurri are proud to represent their country, whatever their background. Members of the team Younis, Hawar and Basim all from different sects even have identical maps of Iraq tattooed on theirs arms as a gesture of how much Iraq means to them. However in the turmoil in war-torn Iraq, the Asood Al-Rafidain has meant even more to its people, the one thing they could unite and celebrate and look for in hope in these hard and dark times of the daily terrorism, car bombings, kidnappings, sectarian violence and electricity blackouts.

As the popular Iraqi song ‘Iraq Joy’ with the chorus “Jeeb Al-Kass Jeeba” (Bring the Cup, Bring it) continuously played on Iraqi TV channels after the final victory went “Look at the player at the stadium, he plays with his hand over an injury. That’s our Iraqi player from tragedy he brings joy…The team you see before you, is one like our united people…We are Nour, Nashat, and Hawar, we are, Younis, Basim, Haidar, Haitham and Karrar, we are, Salih, Mahdi and Qusai, Ali Rahema, Jassim, we are. One family and team, and tomorrow they will light up our morning…. ” The words written by poet Karim Al-Iraqi speak for themselves.

Eleven footballers, just ordinary individuals had done what the whole Iraqi parliament could not do, unite a nation and bring smiles on people’s faces instead of tears and suffering. The Iraq national team has succeeded where politics has failed.