Skip to comments.Iraqis Cheer for a Team That Again Is at Home
Posted on 07/15/2009 5:08:46 AM PDT by forkinsocket
BAGHDAD The score did not matter so much well, it mattered some. More important was that Iraqs itinerant national soccer team, displaced for years by war, finally returned to Baghdad on Monday night to play a home match at home.
In a dusty summer swelter, tens of thousands of Iraqis poured into Baghdads shabby Shaab Stadium and for the first time since 2002 filled it with a cacophony of clapping, clanging, chanting and cheering for the one thing that unifies Iraq more than any other.
Iraq! Iraq! they chanted hours before the match, the stadium filled past capacity and genuinely festive like nothing Baghdad had experienced in years.
A roar went up when the national team jogged out, formed a circle at midfield and, as one, kissed the ground. It became deafening when Iraqs Kurdish hero, Hawar Mulla Mohammed, scored the teams first goal 27 minutes into the match, the second of two friendly contests against a Palestinian team, from another beleaguered place.
It never really let up as Iraq scored three more goals, cruising to a 4-0 victory. The first match was played on Friday night in Irbil, in the relative security of Kurdish northern Iraq, with Iraq winning by a similarly lopsided score, 3-0. Iraqs new coach, Nadhim Shakir, described the games as milestones, comparing the teams return home to an experience thousands of Iraqis have endured since the American invasion in 2003.
We are like someone whos been displaced from his house, he said before the match on Monday. Now, at last, he is going back.
Like many of Iraqs recent milestones including the withdrawal of American combat forces from the cities 13 days ago the match was colored by the realities of a capital that is more secure, but far from safe.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...