Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When They Can, Iraqis Follow Football

17 December, 2006

Iraq take the Silver Medal at the Asian Games in Doha losing 1-0 to Qatar the host nation in the final, having defeated South Korea in the Semi-Finals.
The following month (on 18 January) Iraq knocked Qatar out of the Gulf Cup at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but were themselves later defeat by Saudi Arabia.

25,000 Crowd In Baghdad

This was back in June 2006 at the Al-Zawraq v Al-Jawiyn game at the Al-Shaab Stadium in Baghdad, despite football being targeted at the time.

2006-7 Season In Full Flight

The Iraqi Super League kicked off on 22 December, 2006. Due to the problems of violence against football which I describe via the above link, the League was re-structured into Regional Divisions. But the top teams will still qualify for nation-wide play-offs.

North Division

Made up of 7 teams, mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan. Arbil (whose ground I travelled past several times last April) are the current leaders.

South Division

Also made up of 7 teams, including those from Basra and religious centre of Najaf - the latter are the current leaders.

Baghdad's Two Divisions

There was to be a Division of 10 teams from the Baghdad area, but Ramadi FC dropped out. Not it is claimed because it has been a centre of conflict, but for financial reasons. To ease travelling difficulties in the midst of the problems of violence in the area, the remaining nine teams were then divided into two Divisions.

Al-Jawiya whom I mentioned above are runners-up in Division A. Whilst Al-Zawaq whose ground was packed with 25,000 spectators last June, are the leaders of Division B.

Super Link To The Super League

Updated Iraqi Super League tables and links for details about all the 23 teams in their 4 Divisions can be found here. Furthermore, the League also operates 2nd Divisions.

Iraq v Palestine

What about these as comradely contests in the Asian Cup Qualifiers, played over two-legs neither of which are held in the "home" teams homeland? First of all Palestine have not yet got a proper homeland. So they met in Jordan on 16 August last year, with a 3-0 win to Iraq. Then Iraq took their "home " game to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates on 6 September, 2006 - it was a 2-2 draw.

But You Can Celebrate More Than Sport At A Sports Stadium

18 days ago, 10,000 people (including children) packed into a Sports Stadium in Baghdad to hold the first mass secular democratic celebration in Iraq for years. I will give details about the political party who organised this tomorrow. In the meantime look at these amassing photos - and these. Both football and politics can (and should) be fun and never this.

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