In the ancient times (pre-2003), an Iraqi player would be selected to play to represent the national team on the judgement of the national coach, then we had the days after the 2003 War, where many of Iraq’s best players migrated to escape the chaos of post-war nightmare and a host of top clubs were seemingly unrecognisable to the everyday Iraqi football fan. Some of the grand old names of Iraqi football, of the likes of Al-Shurta, Al-Talaba, Al-Jawiya and Al-Zawraa, had youth or junior in their senior ranks after the exodus of their key players looking to the riches or safety of foreign and more greener football pastures. And all the while, the national team coach was expected to name his team, in the midst of the daily car bombings and whatever troubles in the country after the US invasion. There wasn’t a fully-functioning Iraqi league, nor were matches televised, so the simple solution was to have FA officials to dictate the names on the squad.
Favouritism or allegiances and sometimes nepotism has seen players being recalled to the Iraqi national teams, both senior or youth side. Even Jassim Mohammed Ghulam, the tough-looking 2007 Asian Cup winning defender, spoke to an FA official and not the Iraqi coach prior to the Asian tournament eight years ago to get his name on the roster. This is Iraq.
Today, a player is selected and dropped daily, even before a national team roster is named. Yesterday, Mohammed Hamed’s blunder in the West Bank in the AFC Cup in the colours of Al-Shurta has cost him his place in the national team, even though he wasn’t playing for the national team at the time, nor was a recent national squad announced by the Iraq FA.
In the old days, looking back as Iraqis always love to do, the national coach made the final decision on the selection of a goalkeeper, but today the goalkeeping coach, picks, selects, trains and even omits players as he pleases, we’ve had Abdul-Karim Naim, a part-time media spokesman, assistant coach but in real terms a goalkeeping coach, publicly speaking on which goalkeepers he was thinking of calling up. Isn’t this the role of the national team coach?
The art of goalkeeping, may be seen as a different footballing skill to the talent of outfield footballers but there shouldn’t a goalkeeping coach managing or selecting goalkeepers and the national coach calling up outfield players. Nor should there be interference from FA officials, as they has been for so many years and continues to be, with Nour Sabri now expected to be recalled after he decided himself to retire from international football a couple of years ago.
In the case of the Iraqi national team, too many cooks really do ruin the broth. Al-Shurta’s Mohammed Hamed may not in the best of form of late, but to be dropped immediately and so publicly from the national team, after a mistake playing for his club side, and two months before a national squad list is even set to be named! A complete humiliation for the custodian and a lack of professionalism demonstrated by a thoughtless, if not clueless Football Association.
Is this a rational decision? Or was it made to satisfy the masses? The Iraq FA are very unscrupulous in their ways, keeping popular footballers in the side and omitting others on the urging of spectator or mob pressure. And this is how, the mud never sticks to some officials in the Iraqi Football Association, some of whom have worked in football administration from 2003.
This is not the way to drop or select a player. Would Joe Hart or Gianluigi Buffon be treated the same, dropping a clanger for their clubs and the next day read the papers to see themselves dropped from their national sides – two months before even a squad list would be released!