Friday, August 13, 2004

Something Positive for a Change

Here's one small bit of Iraq-related news that isn't about abductions and killing: in their first Olympic competition, Iraq beat Portugal 4-2 in a football* match.

PATRAS, Greece - In its first Olympic competition since its country was shattered by war, Iraq upset star-studded Portugal 4-2 on Thursday in a gritty, come-from-behind victory that set off cheers and celebrations among some 200 fans.

“This victory will be received with happiness by my people, who have suffered through much,” said Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad, whose countrymen were already taking to the streets of Baghdad, lighting up the night sky with streaks of celebratory gunfire.

The stunning victory over a team that made it to final of the recent Euro 2004 tournament brought a rare moment of joy for Iraqis plagued by violence, chaos and constant power outages.

Across their homeland, they watched the game on television at home and at cafes. Even people at a Baghdad barbershop took time out of their late-night haircuts to celebrate the goals.


Things did not go well early for the Iraqis, who handed the first goal to Portugal in the 13th minute when defender Haidar Jabar accidentally kicked the ball into his own net while trying to clear a pass by Cristiano Ronaldo. Three minutes later, however, striker Emad Mohammed tied the game after picking up a rebound from the goalkeeper, Moreira.

Iraq went ahead 2-1 in the 29th minute when Hawar Mulla Mohammed scored on a soft shot after dribbling past the goalkeeper, but Portugal tied it with a minute to go in the first half on a goal by Bosingwa.

Younis Mahmoud put Iraq ahead 3-2 in the 56th minute, and Salih Sadir scored during injury time to seal the victory.

Portugal ended the match with 10 men after Boa Morte was ejected for rough play. As the Portuguese player left the field, he was showered with dozens of plastic bottles by Iraqi fans.

Portugal, which had Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Boa Morte and Hugo Viana in the lineup, is trying to make up for losing to upstart Greece in the final of Euro 2004, which it hosted.

Now it has to beat Group D rivals Costa Rica and Morocco, who tied 0-0 to reach the quarterfinal.
Hmm, I see that the Iraqis are already acquiring the nasty habits of the worst of Europe's football fans; pity about that. Still, signs of Iraq's reintegration into the world, even small ones like a football match, ought to be welcomed.

*That sport which certain peoples perversely insist on calling "soccer."