Iraqis Celebrate Victory in the Asian Cup - 11.05.2007

Video - Baghdad, Iraq - The history of Iraq’s football/soccer team has been almost as torrid as that of the country. The Asia Cup was founded just two years before Iraq’s 1958 Revolution. The ensuing conflict and chaos prevented Iraq from entering the Cup until 1972, when they only reached the first round. In 1976 they won fourth place, but they were not able to enter the Cup again for another 20 years. In the three cups preceding 2007, Iraq made it to the Quarterfinals, but not beyond.

It was thus with great jubilaiton and excitement that Iraqis celebrated their victory over Saudi Arabia in the 2007 Asia Cup. Across the country, from the Kurdish Region south to Basra, Iraqis took to the streets defying the ban on vehicles and celebratory gunfire. Our correspondent, Nabeel Kamal ventured into the streets of Baghdad to capture some of the only video available of the Baghdad celebrations. Youtube carries many images of Iraqi celebrations around the world, but few of those in Iraq itself.

The Asia Cup was won on July 29th 2007, and unfortunately we are just now able to bring you this short documentary of the celebrations. Despite the timing, this video is an important look at a happy time for Iraqis, despite the conflict. They celebrated in particular the heroes of the Cup, Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mohammed, with many cheering in support of Hawar’s “great ardor.” One fan weighed in with his own special brand of support for the team, the Prime Minister of the UAE sent his own plane to pick up the team for their flight back to the Middle East.

Unfortunately the happiness and celebratory air ended on a down note, as so many things have in Iraq’s history. Although the celebrations were relatively calm, they were not without incident. Ironically, it appears at least some may have been killed by gunfire from the celebrants themselves. Just days after the victory, Younis Mahmoud stunned Iraqi fans with the news that he would not return to his home country, out of fear for his safety.

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