On July 29, 2007, Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia and won the Asia Cup. This is a tremendous victory that stunned and amazed the world. Not only have the Iraqis shown that they are diligent players at the game of football, they have overcomes hardship and challenge to reign victorious as champions. The outburst of enthusiasm throughout the streets of Baghdad has been phenomenal. There is no doubt that the Iraqis have proven their commitment to triumph over the hardships of war that they have been faced with.
The Asian Cup was founded in 1956 and the Asian Football Confederation runs it. Not only have the Iraqis been declared the champions of Asia, but also with their win, they are now eligible for the FIFA Confederations Cup. The tournament is held every four years, but was moved up a year early. Due to the fact that with the Summer Olympics and European Football Championships also taking place in 2008, they changed the schedule for the Asian Cup. However, after this yearâ€™s win by the Iraqis, the tournament will be held every four years from 2007.
The game was filled with anticipation, and the Iraqis were clearly the underdog. All eyes turned however, when Younis Mahmoud (who was also declared most valuable player) delivered the winning play. With 71st minute header and a kick from Hawar Mulla, the Saudi Arabian goalie, Al Mosailem didnâ€™t know what hit him. Unable to block the winning goal, the three time champions handed victory to the Iraqis. Overcome with emotion, the Iraqis upon hearing the final ring and realizing they were the champions, dashed across the soccer field and collapsed in a large pile. The crowd was ecstatic and shouts of victory broke forth throughout all of Iraq. Against police orders, the Iraqis shot celebratory gunfire into the streets and celebrated well into the early morning; joy had broke out in the streets of Baghdad once again.
To say that the Iraqi win was surprising is an understatement. Most people revere the victory as a sheer miracle. The Iraqi team overcame tremendous obstacles to claim this victory, and no doubt they will be honored and became legends with this feat. In fact, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, announced that each member of the winning team would receive 10,000.
Their Brazilian coach, Jorvan Vieira worked with the team in very difficult circumstances. First, he needed to take the team outside of Iraq for training. There is no doubt that the team had to overcome low morale at times to focus on their sport. During training and right before the match, several players lost relatives due to the war. In addition, violence haunted the team with bombings taking the lives of fans as they celebrated the Iraqis early win. Coach, Vieira mentioned one casualty, team phsyio, Anwar who succumbed to a bombing while collecting tickets for a pre-tournament training camp. The war continually follows Iraq, but for this day, Iraqâ€™s spirit truly overshadowed the political turmoil and declared them victorious.