Iraqi Game Draws Thousands

In a sign of the improving conditions in Iraq, several thousand supporters turned out in the capital city of Baghdad recently for a game between two local teams. The match, between Police College and Baghdad's most popular club Al-Zawra, marked the return of premier league football to a land torn apart by war and sectarian violence.Played on a dusty field inside Al-Shaab Stadium stadium, many spectators sported the green jerseys of their country's national team. With the facility protected by Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles, as well as the occasional patrol by U.S. humvees, the game went off without incident. It was only the second time in 18 months that Baghdad was able to host a match, as mortar attacks had previously forced authorities to move games out of the capital for safety reasons.

Violence in the country has fallen to a two-year low, attributed in part to a military surge of 30,000 additional troops that was unpopular at home, but seems to now be paying dividends.

"Soon we will see large crowds again. Iraqis love football. Fans will return," said Khalid Mahmud, a sports shop-owner from central Baghdad.

Iraq's national team made headlines in July when they defeated Saudi Arabia to secure the AFC Asian Cup crown, and also booked a place in the 2009 Confederations Cup, to be held in South Africa. There, they will face some of the world's best soccer programs, including Brazil, Italy and the United States as a prelude to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Webbie said...

"In a sign of the improving conditions in Iraq.."

You are taking the piss right ?

TJ said...

Well... I'm not much of a fan of the war or the current administration's foreign policy. I knew I'd catch some flak for writing the line about things improving.

But, from a deaths standpoint, both among Iraqi civilians and U.S. servicemembers, things are looking up as both levels are at two-year lows and declined dramatically for the third-straight month.

Personally, my family has had to deal with the loss of two cousins to this war, and I'm still not exactly sure what they were sent over there to accomplish.

I don't think saying that things have improved from the same time three months ago is far from the truth, but it's still a long ways away from where I'd like to see things, but I'm cautiously optimistic that things ARE improving and I hope they will continue to do so, and then we can bring the troops home to their families.