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.