Challenges Face Youth Football in Sadr City - 02.18.2008

While the air on the street is calm, Baghdad’s youth will determine the future of the city and the country at large. This week Nabeel Kamal visited a football game for Baghdad’s youth in Sadr City’s sector 74. Sector 74, like much of Sadr City, is a poor area of Baghdad, with great needs from the city government in all issues. Not only are they hoping for improvement of sewage pipes and electricity, they also dream of football fields with grass and goal nets.

Although many may see this as a somewhat frivolous goal, given the adversity facing Iraqis in their everyday lives, the coaches of Sector 74 and other areas would tell you differently. Indeed Iraqis even have a term for this kind of person, a “Battran” is “someone who is dying and asking for ice cream instead of help” as one Iraqi colleague has commented. Yet in the case of Sector 74, questions remain as to what happens after the basic city infrastructure has been rebuilt.

If the only outlets provided for Iraq’s youth are idleness, unemployment, or joining a militia, for many the choice will be clear, and not to the nation’s benefit. Although even Iraq’s football teams have been the target of violence, by and large it has been a uniting factor. Football is incredibly important to Iraqis across sectarian, ethnic, and regional lines. Today even the deaf in Iraq are getting a chance to enjoy the sport. As we reported previously, Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup in 2007 was met with raucous celebrations all over the country.

The young men of Sector 74 will continue rooting for their national team’s strive for greatness, and they’ll dream not just of goal nets and green fields, but their own chance to make their mark and have their name cheered by Iraqis at home and in the diaspora alike.

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