Update: Celebration at Iraq The Model.
The Iraqi soccer team defied the odds and defeated the Saudi Arabian team 1-0 in the Asian Cup final today. Reuters reports:
Few people had given Iraq any chance of winning the tournament after a haphazard preparation brought about by the war at home and facing opponents who were appearing in their sixth final in 23 years. Iraq[is] were forced to train and play their qualifiers in neutral countries and their coach, Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira, who said he planned to quit after the match, only had two months to mould a team that included Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish players.
None of the Iraqi players have been untouched by the war and although they have tried to mask their grief, there were constant reminders of the sectarian violence at home.
At least three players in the squad have lost relatives in the past two months and all the players wore black armbands during the final in memory of the 50 people killed by suicide bombers after Wednesday’s semi-final win over South Korea.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was at the Gelora Bung National Stadium for the final, said Iraq’s achievement had inspired millions and was proof of sport’s unique power to unite people in the most desperate circumstances.
Iraqis welcomed the victory as a chance to show the world they can come together and expressed frustration that their politicians couldn’t do the same.
“Those heroes have shown the real Iraq. They have done something useful for the people as opposed to the politicians and lawmakers who are stealing or killing each other,” said Sabah Shaiyal, a 43-year-old policeman in Baghdad. “The players have made us proud, not the greedy politicians. Once again, our national team has shown that there is only one, united Iraq.”
Defying orders from authorities, celebratory gunfire resounded across Baghdad and revelers poured into the streets after Iraq beat Saudi Arabia to clinch its first Asian Cup soccer championship on Sunday while mosques broadcast calls for the shooting to stop.
Security forces, meanwhile, enforced a vehicle ban in an effort to prevent a repeat of car bombings that killed dozens celebrating Iraq’s progress to the finals in Asia’s top soccer tournament.
Savor the moment:
HA commenter JackStraw writes: “Violence breaks out over an international soccer match? Wow, Iraq is looking more like a European democracy everyday.”