View Full Version : Iraq 4 Portugal 2

08-14-2004, 02:41 AM
Olympics-Soccer-Iraq on mission of hope

By Alastair Himmer

ATHENS, Aug 13 (Reuters) - For Iraq's footballers, the Olympics are not about rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the world or even the lure of Greek gold.

They are an opportunity to restore pride and bring some crumbs of comfort and hope to the people of their war-ravaged country.


Iraq, who overcame severe hardship on the road to Greece, seized the chance by stunning Portugal 4-2 in their opening group match of the Athens Games on Thursday.

Almost daily news bulletins of further destruction and bloodshed back home will drive the Iraqi players to keep punching above their weight, according to their coach Adnan Hamd.

"The players talk about the bad news and they are very worried about their families in Baghdad and other cities," Hamd told Reuters on Friday.

"But, you know, it just makes us more determined to make people in Iraq happy in this difficult situation in our country. We will try to do our compatriots proud."


Iraq's war-weary players no longer live in fear of former Olympic and soccer chief Uday Hussein, the son of toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, who used to beat the soles of their feet or lock them up for slip-ups on the pitch.

Uday and brother Qusay were killed by U.S. troops in July last year several months after Saddam was removed from power by American-led forces.

But Iraq's cash-strapped football team still faced enormous obstacles as stadiums were destroyed in the U.S.-led invasion and pitches turned into hospitals or cemeteries.

The players have been forced to share a bumpy training pitch with grazing sheep since the American military converted the main stadium in Baghdad into a base to park their tanks.

"There are still a lot of problems," said Hamd, whose under-23 side defied extreme odds to reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in China last month.

"After the Asian Cup we had two days of training in Baghdad but some players could not come because roads were closed by the American army and they were not allowed outside."


Distressed at the heightened chaos in Iraq, Hamd's predecessor, German Bernd Stange quit last month, saying he feared for his life amid escalating violence.

Iraq, though, are accustomed to battling adversity, qualifying for the Asian Cup despite having to play their "home" games in neutral Jordan, a difficult bus ride away.

When the team secured qualification for Athens with a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Saudi Arabia in May, Baghdad went berserk, with gunfire in the streets and flares lighting up the skies.

Iraq has won just one Olympic medal in its history, a weightlifting bronze at the 1960 Rome Games. But Hamd's players are on a mission to win a second medal for the country.

"We know that people in Iraq are praying for a good result from the Olympic team when we play in Athens," said Hamd.

"It is difficult for us to play with all the problems but we must play with bring hope and pride to people in Iraq."

Karl Connor
08-14-2004, 02:43 AM

Karl Connor
08-14-2004, 02:43 AM
Originally posted by Randall Sandell

08-14-2004, 02:44 AM

08-15-2004, 06:13 AM
I heard about that.

Pretty fucked up.